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Plan ahead for higher yields

Bumper soybean yields start with preseason planning. Steps include sound variety selection, targeted early planting dates, diversified maturities, and seed protection.

Each summer, Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension agronomist, fields zingers like this: What can I buy to get 80-bushel-per-acre soybean yields?

At that time, it's a little too late to turn an ugly duckling into a swan. Sure, bin-busting yields of 80 bushels per acre and above happen. Yet, these bin-bulging yields are mostly due to planning farmers do before planting.

Here are four ideas to help you get a jump start on higher yields for the 2009 growing season.

"The way you set yield potential is determined by genetics, the quality of seed, and the yield potential that seed has," says Pedersen, a member of the High Yield Team (HYT) expert panel.

That's easier said than done.

"Twenty years ago, you could have put on a blindfold and picked the right variety," says Pedersen. Today, though, a plethora of pests makes it more difficult to thread the variety-selection needle. A good example is soybean cyst nematode (SCN), which infests a higher percentage of soybean fields.

In Iowa, for example, SCN was found in 71% of 205 randomly selected fields in a 2007 survey funded by the soybean checkoff. Yet, Iowa farmers normally plant just 45% of soybean acres to SCN-resistant varieties, says Pedersen.

"When SCN-resistant varieties first came out, there was a six- to 10-bushel yield drag," says Pedersen. "Today, there is no yield drag. We need to start implementing an SCN management plan and plant SCN-resistant varieties as soon as we identify SCN in a field," he says.

Bumper soybean yields start with preseason planning. Steps include sound variety selection, targeted early planting dates, diversified maturities, and seed protection.

Mid-May, a time of mostly abundant sunshine and warm soils, used to be the recommended time for planting soybeans. Yet, recent research has turned this guideline on its ear.

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