“We are seeing dramatic changes right now on farms because of the higher commodity prices,” he says. “You really have to be picky about what you do on your farm. It's all about yield.”
The trend is that corn dictates soybean planting since soybeans are often planted after corn. To get optimal yield, soybean planting today should be based on calendar date and seedbed conditions. Research from Iowa State University shows producers can expect a 3- to 4-bushel-per-acre increase in yield with earlier planting dates.
When soybeans are planted in late April to early May the temperature could be as low as 50°F at 2 inches. That is not a problem because the seed quality is extremely high today. With the low temperature, it is not uncommon for the seed to take 2 to 3 weeks to emerge, so it is important to protect it with an insecticide or fungicide seed treatment.
“Early on it will look like the plants aren't growing a lot. But they are,” Pedersen says. “It's a fine art, but in an average growing season you can't maximize yield if you are planting late.”
Those farming in Iowa, Minnesota, and northern Illinois have a short growing season for beans to set and then mature, maybe only 40 to 45 days. Pedersen recommends that producers in the southern two thirds of Iowa think about planting around April 25. For those in the upper third of the state, he says to wait until May 1 if seedbed conditions are good.
Pedersen's recipe for maximum yield contains good variety selection, fertility, weed management, row spacing, and early planting. Management practices are different for corn and soybeans. With corn, producers need to be cognizant of nitrogen levels and fertility of the plant. “Tillage, population, and fertility are critical when it comes to corn planting,” explains Pedersen.
But those factors have little impact when it comes to soybeans. Legumes can yield just as well out of no-till as they can from tilled ground.
Today's farmers have a higher quality of seed. The value of seed treatments has gone up dramatically to protect against insect and disease.
“It's critical to plant the right variety and manage disease, weeds, and insects,” Pedersen says. “It comes down to doing a better job. Not just buying high-quality seed but also managing weeds and planting early. When you plant early, you can't forget to manage the weeds.”
Pedersen cautions that the benefits of early planting could be negated by planting in the wrong soil conditions. Planting beans into muck may cause soil compaction and poor seed placement. Planting before the soil conditions are right can result in the need to replant the fields.