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Planting Soybeans in Soggy Soils Leads to Long-Term Problems

Compaction, delayed emergence, and yield loss are risks of planting in subpar conditions.

While you wait for cornfields to dry out, it’s tempting to get those soybeans planted, even if the soil is just a little soggier than you would prefer. However, there could be a price to pay for geting those soybeans in the ground. 

“My rule of thumb is, if I’m going to the field and planting – even if it is just a little wet – and we don’t see good seed-to-soil contact and the seed slot is closing, then I stop,” says Ignacio Ciampitti, Extension agronomist at Kansas State University. 

Saturated soils can cause a host of emergence problems in soybeans. 

“Wet soil conditions will slow emergence, make the soil more susceptible to compaction (limiting root growth), and cause poor plant-to-plant uniformity after emergence,” Ciampitti says. He adds that soil surface crusting is another potential challenge for soybean emergence.

“It’s not as critical an issue in soybeans as it is in corn. But with soybeans, we still have a good planting window,” he adds. In other words, there is still another three to four weeks in which farmers can plant soybeans with minimal reduction in yield. Thus, it’s not imperative that seeds be planted in suboptimal conditions. 

And, as itchy as farmers are to get to the field and plant something, doing so when soils are wet can lead to long-term problems like compaction, says Paul Jasa, Extension engineer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

“Wet soils are easily compacted, and sidewall compaction during planting can be a problem, especially if the crop is ‘mudded in’ and a dry spell occurs after planting,” Jasa says.  

He points out that if conditions turn dry for several days after planting, soils that may have done an adequate job of sealing the seed slot closed at planting while saturated can dry up and shrink, opening the seed-vee and exposing the seeds. 

“This often occurs when there is a hot, windy period after planting, drying out the seed zone and reducing the stand,” explains Jasa. “This is less of a problem in higher organic matter soils and in continuous no-till soils with improved soil structure.”

The bottom line? While you’re waiting for corn planting conditions to improve, don’t jump the gun and plant soybeans instead. You’re better off to wait for the “best conditions possible” for corn planting and proceed with that crop, Ciampitti says. 

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