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Growing Soybeans 101

Soybeans are the second most planted field crop in the U.S., trumped only by corn, and more than 80% of U.S. bean acres are found in the upper Midwest, according to the USDA. The legumes are grown for use in everything from food products to fuel.

On this page, you’ll get basic information on planting, growing, and harvesting this podded plant that’s found in fields all across the Midwest, Delta, and southeast portions of the U.S.

Planting Soybeans

Getting seed in the ground at the right time, when soil temperatures get around 50°F, is always the goal, but new trials from Ehler Bros. Seed say planting soybeans early can boost yields in central Illinois in certain years. According to one of the company agronomists, farmers can get 8 to 10 extra bushels per acre by simply planting full-season soybeans earlier than they would normally—no later than the end of April. The company thinks growers should consider planting beans before corn, which would be a change of pace for most of the Corn Belt. 

Planting depth is another factor for setting yourself up for success. Soil temperature, moisture, and type of tillage all should be considered when choosing the depth you’ll plant beans at. Iowa State Extension advises Iowa farmers to not plant soybeans deeper than 2 inches. In fact, 1 to 1.5 inches deep is best for Iowa.

The Thing About Dicamba

Monsanto, BASF, and Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, market new formulations of dicamba that manufacturers say are lower in volatility than older dicamba formulations. Although the herbicides resulted in excellent weed control in 2017, there was off-target damage. In some cases, off-target movement appeared to move miles away.

It’s predicted that Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean usage will double from 2017 to the 2018 growing season as EPA registration of dicamba use in dicamba-tolerant soybeans is set to expire in November.

Soybean Varieties

Arguably the greatest tool in modern soybean farming is the ability to hand-select traits preferred in a soybean variety. Between disease and herbicide traits, maturity selection, and standability and shattering options, farmers can start the growing season with more control than ever over how the following months will go.

Later maturing soybean varieties tend to have higher yields, but the highest-yielding varieties aren’t always the most profitable for growers. Iowa State University Extension suggests balancing yield potential with other management costs.

There are always new traits and varieties being tested by seed companies and recently agricultural companies have been teaming up to get the latest seed technology in U.S. fields. Courtesy of a collaboration between Dow AgroSciences and ADM, Enlist E3 soybeans will be available to U.S. farmers looking to implement the weed-control technology in 2018. The Balance GT Soybean Performance System, known as Balance Bean, is also the product of a collaboration and is the herbicide component to the Balance GT soybeans.

Import approvals for Balance GTLL (LibertyLink GT27) are still pending, say Bayer officials.

Growing Soybeans

Although soybean acres can face soybean cyst nematodes (SCN), sudden death syndrome (SDS), brown stem rot, iron deficiency chlorosis (IDC), white mold, and phytopthora, choosing the right seed variety and/or applying an effective pesticide can help to combat issues throughout the growing season. Check out these 8 do’s and don’ts for soybeans for helpful growing tips.

Closely scouting soybean fields to watch for pod growth and tissue testing to find nutrient deficiencies is a good strategy for great bean management. Supplementing plants with potassium and sulfur may boost yields in an average-performing soybean field. Weeds, too, need to be closely managed with herbicides. Glyphosate, dicamba, and other products have incidentally contributed to the development of resistant weeds, but working closely on a management plan with an agronomist can make a huge difference.

Harvesting Soybeans

Once 95% of pods are a mature tan color and moisture levels reach the 13% to 15% range, it’s time to start harvest. With moisture levels lower than 13%, beans have a much higher shattering chance and may be brittle or split. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension warns against harvesting soybeans when they are at their driest, like on a hot afternoon, to avoid additional shattering. 

This combine maintenance and adjustment guide can help you make sure you’re ready for a productive, profitable harvest this year.

Soybean Yields

High yields are always the goal for soybeans, but corn often gets the most attention in terms of management. Give your beans a little extra attention this year and implement these 5 steps to boost your soybean yields.

Although yield contests can inspire farmers to manage crops differently, it’s important to remember that some fields will realistically never be able to produce 100-bushel or more yields based on location and soil quality. That being said, there’s always something to be learned from the high yield contests. One Illinois family set a new state record for highest verified soybean yield and have tips for how they managed the 108-bushel contest plot.

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