10 ways to make more money in corn and soybeans
There aren’t many sure things when growing corn and soybeans, but through its Practical Farm Research program, Beck’s has delivered 10 strategies that have a proven track record of payoff for at least three years, at multiple locations. The research is noted in the 2021 edition of Beck’s Practical Farm Research, which provides nearly 300 pages of research summaries from nine sites.
Jim Schwartz, director of agronomy and PFR for Beck’s, takes us through the top tips. The research results assume $4.78 corn and $11.95 soybeans.
Five for corn
- Plant in April. Based on 21 years of multiple location research, planting corn April 16-30 provides a 7.8% yield increase over the mean. Planting April 1-15, and May 1-15, is next best, at about 4% yield increase over mean. Schwartz notes the yield penalty for delayed planting is not as severe for corn as it is in soybeans. “Achieving a uniform stand is more important than calendar date,” he says.
- Change up closing wheels. Rather than use the two solid rubber closing wheels that come from the factory, a pair of spiked closing wheels is almost always better. Three years of multi-location data suggest the Yetter Poly Twisters have a 5.1-bushel yield advantage over factory closing wheels. Other winners include Copperhead Ag Furrow Cruisers (+3.8); Schuffert Mohawk (+3.6), Schuffert Zipper (+3.1), and SI Distributing Finger-Till (+2.7).
- Apply starter fertilizer on both sides. Assuming the same amount of total nitrogen is applied to the corn crop, applying 60 units of N in a 2×2×2 application at planting yielded 222.8 bushels per acre, vs. 30 units in a 2×2×2 or 30 units in a 2×2 scenario. Placing on both sides of the row improves root growth, Schwartz says.
- Sidedress nitrogen. Corn needs N throughout the growing season, but it’s critical from V10 to R6. Thus, a split-application of N to reduce weather-related losses is a solid strategy. The PRF research shows that applying 30 units in a 2×2 band at planting, and sidedressing 160 units at V3 provides a $72.36-per-acre return. That is the exact same return as a single 190-unit sidedress application at V3.
- Apply fungicide at VT. Putting fungicide on corn is a common practice but doing so at VT provides the most bang for the buck. Based on three-year, multiple-location research, this practice provided a $20.39-per-acre profit increase. Application at V5 actually lost $3.50 per acre, while application at V5 and VT resulted in a $2.48-per-acre increase in profit.
Five for soybeans
- Fungicide at R3. Hands down, a fungicide application at R3 provides the most bang for the buck in soybeans, providing a $17.68 return, compared with -$3.91 at R and -$2.53 at R4. At R3, there is a 3/16-inch pod at one of the top four nodes, Schwartz says. Beck’s notes that about 70% of the soybean yield comes from nodes 6 to 13; these are usually present at R3 and thus, will benefit from the fungicide.
- Plant April 16-30. Early planting increases node count; therefore, planting early is an important factor in driving yields. April 16-30 is the sweet spot, as this strategy provides a 6.5% yield above the mean. April 1-15 provides a 6% yield increase; at 4.6% May 1-15 is the only other time of planting to result in a yield increase above the mean.
- Seed treatments pay. Over 12 years of multiple location data, using Beck’s proprietary Escalate seed treatment (a combination of fungicides, nematicide, bio-stimulant, bio-fungicide, and bio-insecticide) provides a $47 ROI compared with untreated.
- 15-inch rows are optimal. In 10 years of multiple location data, planting in 15-inch rows vs. 30-inch rows results in the “Economic Optimum Seeding Rate,” the company says. At all seeding populations, the 15-inch row width provides a better EOSR than 30-inch rows at the same rate. Narrower rows capture more sunlight, and canopy earlier to thwart weeds.
- Seeding date and rate math. 100,000 seeds per acre in 15-inch rows provides $694 in gross revenue, vs. $650 with 30-inch rows at 100,000 seeds per acre, when planting early. Assuming you can provide good weed control, reduced rate of soybeans will encourage the plants to branch out. If you decide to plant later (from May 16 on), bump up seeding rate to 125,000 or 150,000 seeds per acre. Beck’s doesn’t necessarily recommend planting 100,000 seeds per acre, but the research shows that planting over 150,000 seeds per acre won’t pay. And, thin stands of 80,000 to 100,000 seeds per acre probably won’t require replanting.