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Fight off 'desperate mode' with late soybean plantings

Agriculture.com Staff 05/19/2008 @ 7:56am

With generally drier weather conditions finally descending upon the nation's midsection, planters in many areas are running wide-open.

But, there still have been and will be delays. Many corn and soybean acres are late getting planted, meaning yields will likely lag a bit. But especially for the latter crop, forcing the crop in early can take a bigger chunk out of yields than waiting on better conditions.

"We are all getting close to the 'desperate mode,'" says Iowa State University agronomist Palle Pedersen. "Despite that, we should still try to stay calm since we can still get good soybean yields if we have perfect weather conditions in July and August."

Pedersen says years of data show the benefits of planting soybeans early; earlier flowering, increased canopy photosynthesis, better plant growth during pod set and higher seed-filling rate are a few of the benefits of planting by the end of April. But, since that window's closed, it's best to move ahead and not to try to re-open it -- especially when other issues, like sometimes suspect seed quality this season, enter into the equation.

"'Mudding in' soybean just to plant early -- causing soil compaction and poor seed placement -- outweighs any benefit of early planting. Soybean cannot better tolerate wet seedbed conditions than corn," Pedersen says. "I would say it is the opposite. In addition, seed quality this year is not perfect which can lead to higher plant mortality than normal because of the cool wet seedbed."

So, what to do? Pedersen advises planting your most productive fields first, as it's here where delayed-planting yield losses can tally up the highest number of lost bushels. But, hold off until soil conditions are right, as pushing soybean seed into unfit soil can cause a greater yield loss than delayed plantings in general.

"Warmer and drier soils will give us a faster emergence and since soybean seed doesn't stay viable as long as corn seed under cooler and wetter conditions soybean seeds are weaker and more susceptible right now to for example soilborne pathogens. One of the soilborne pathogens that prefer cool wet conditions is Pythium and the only way to protect your crops from this disease is using a fungicide seed treatment," Pedersen says.

"Every bushel will count this year and we want to give the plant as good as a start as possible. To minimize yield loss from delayed planting it is recommended to plant your high productive fields first since it is often here where delayed planting is most costly," he adds.

With generally drier weather conditions finally descending upon the nation's midsection, planters in many areas are running wide-open.

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