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High Yield Team shoots to boost bean yields by 30% on 'challenged' fields

A group of nearly 1,000 farmers who are part of the Successful Farming magazine High Yield Team are aiming to improve soybean yields this year by about 30% on fields they have enrolled in the program.

The High Yield Team, organized by Successful Farming and Agriculture Online, is comprised of farmers who are taking on a personal challenge to boost yields on soybean acres that have proved problematical in the past.

In recent years, many growers have seen yields of the "miracle crop" hit a plateau, for a variety of reasons, including pests, disease, and adverse weather.

Growers participating in the High Yield Team program have enrolled more than 100,000 acres in the program. The historical yields on these "problem" fields is 47 bu/ac on average. The personal improvement goal of the growers is to raise those yields to 61 bu/ac on average.

For their participation, High Yield Team members receive special reports from an expert panel, an e-mail newsletter, as well as other benefits.

Variety selection is one area where team members are seeking improvement. "The major change for beans in 2006 is selection of varieties that yield well in our microclimate and management based on our own test plot and field performance in the past two years," says Tom Culp, Lexington, Ohio. "Granted this runs against the rule to select from varieties that do well across a wide area, but those varieties don't always work for us."

Culp has designated as his own personal challenge to boost yields to about 45 bu/ac on a 30-acre field averaging 31.4 bu/ac.

Culp already has an intensive soybean production system in place on his farm -- including an optimal fertility program, early preplant residual chemicals, seed-applied fungicides on early planted varieties, innoculation, and crop scouting and treatment as needed. But some issues are beyond his control, he points out, like how to deal with drainage issues on rented ground.

And then there is the weather. "You pray for sunshine, a rarity here in north central Ohio, and just the right amount of rain," he says.

High Yield Team expert panel members agree that variety selection is a major issue in breaking through yield barriers.

Variety selection can make a major difference whether you harvest 45- or 60-bushel-an-acre beans, says Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University Extension agronomist. In Iowa, soybean cyst nematode (SCN) is a major pest that can slice up to 30% off soybean yields. The good news is farmers can protect yields by selecting top-notch resistant varieties for SCN-infested fields.

Northern growers had excellent results with late-maturing varieties in 2005 due to great growing conditions, says Mark Bernard, a New Richland, Minnesota, crop consultant.

"Because it's tempting to select varieties based on last year's performance, there likely will be an increase in later-maturing varieties in the regions this year," he says. "Yet, northern soybean producers should still strive to plant a mix of varieties with varying maturities, says. "We never know when we'll see a September 14 or earlier killing frost," he says.

To learn more about the High Yield Team, and to join the program, visit:

The High High Yield Team is sponsored by the AgriEdge Soybean Program from Syngenta.

A group of nearly 1,000 farmers who are part of the Successful Farming magazine High Yield Team are aiming to improve soybean yields this year by about 30% on fields they have enrolled in the program.

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