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Tips for Increasing Soybean Yields
Stop smoking. Start exercising. Spend more time with
family. Even though “increasing bushels
per acre” doesn’t make the nation’s Top 10 List for New Year’s Resolutions for
2014, we know it’s on every farmer’s mind.
That’s why today we’re sharing tips to help you do just that!
Mother Nature obviously played a large role in yield potential
last year, but as one of our Latham® dealers says, “It’s my hope that 2014
finds us with more favorable growing conditions.” Following are keys to achieving higher yields
in soybeans as outlined by Mark Grundmeier, Soybean Product Manager for Latham
- Variety Selection:
In my opinion, this is THE most important factor to achieving higher soybean
yields. Farmers need to manage a number
of stress factors: disease, insects, Soybean Cyst Nematodes, etc. Fortunately,
many of these stress factors can be managed through careful variety selection.
Soybean Aphids can now be managed with Aphid-Resistant soybean cultivars. In
the past, too many decisions have been based on cost per bag and the size of
the seed in the bag. Those two factors won’t add a single bushel to your
- Early planting: Soybeans
are a light-sensitive crop, so yields are strongly influenced by the amount of
solar radiation the crop receives throughout the growing season. It stands to
reason that the earlier-planted crop will have more potential for yield since
it will have greater access to sunlight. However, there are risks associated
with early planting. Farmers must be careful to protect early-planted soybeans
from seedling diseases and insects. We recommend the use of seed treatments
containing either a fungicide or a fungicide-insecticide combination.
- Weed Management:
Soybeans are very sensitive to early season competition from grass and
broadleaf weeds. Using a weed control program that includes a pre-emergence
herbicide and a post-applied product will reduce the stress from weed pressure
and allow for early canopy closure. An early complete canopy is important to
intercept as much sunlight as possible throughout the growing season.
- Narrow Row Spacing:
Again, getting back to the theory that enhanced yields are tied directly to the
amount of light that can be intercepted by the soybean crop, then narrow row
spacing will help greatly in closing the canopy and allowing for increased
light interception. I strongly recommend that farmers take a look at row
spacings in the 15 – 20 inch range. Over many years of field observations, this
seems to be the range that affords the greatest amount of yield potential while
also mitigating risks associated with drilled soybeans in the 7 – 10 inch
- Soil Fertility:
When striving for higher yields, soybean farmers need to ensure they have the
available soil nutrients to achieve those yields or else all their careful
planning and cultural practices will be for naught. Latham’s hallmark Seed-2-Soil
program is invaluable in helping farmers achieve these goals. Soil
sampling, field mapping and nutrient recommendations are just three of the many
benefits members of this exclusive club can take advantage of.
- Soybean Cyst
Nematode: SCN is the number one pest of soybean fields in the United
States. You really can’t even begin to
think about raising 80 bu/A or even 60 bu/A soybeans until you know exactly
where your SCN populations are in each field.
Nematodes tend to cause the most damage in drier years where soil
moisture is lacking and plants are already under severe stress. Here again,
soil sampling and careful variety selection are critical.
- Crop Rotation:
Many will argue this comment, but in my opinion, the corn-soybean crop
rotation is still the most profitable practice for farmers over time. The
long-term benefits of this rotation far outweigh the short-term successes of
corn-on-corn or even beans-on-beans.
- Scouting: Scouting
your fields at least once a week is crucial. There will be times during the
year when once a week isn’t often enough, and you might find yourself scouting
fields every other day!
- Inoculants: If soybeans haven’t been grown in a field for 4 or 5 years or if the soil is sandy, then inoculating the soybean seed should be seriously considered. Most fields in the Upper Midwest won’t require inoculants if they have been part of a corn-soybean rotation. Here again, scouting your fields and digging up plants to assure proper nodulation is crucial for achieving top-end yields.