Maximize soybean yields with management

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By evaluating and implementing the right agronomic practices, growers may be able to maximize soybean yields and profits.
 
Row width is one of the management practices most often considered by growers to increase soybean yield and profit. In general, studies have shown that yield potential is greater with row spacing narrower than 30 inches. Recent research studies have shown a 3 to 4 bushel per acre yield advantage with drilled narrow-row and 15 inch row soybeans over soybeans in 30 inch rows.
 
Disease and pest control begin with scouting to understand risks and severity. One increasing threat to growers is soybean cyst nematode (SCN) as it reaches economic levels in more fields. Studies have shown that yields in SCN-infested fields can be reduced by more than 30 percent without visible above ground symptoms.
 
Additional agronomic practices, including variety selection, planting date, seeding rate, soil fertility, crop rotation, weed control, and others, may also help increase soybean yields and profits. Steve Butzen, Agronomy Information Manager, provided a summary of recent DuPont Pioneer research and an introduction to the various research that has been conducted.  

Summary

  • Growing soybeans requires more management today than 20 years ago due to earlier planting and increased disease and insect pressure.
  • Matching soybean varieties to the specific requirements of individual fields is key to maximizing yields. Testing and quickly ramping up acres of top new varieties can also have a significant impact on overall farm yields.
  • Planting practices, including row width, planting date and seeding rate may have a significant effect on yield. Make decisions based on research results and local factors.
  • A soybean crop removes 75 percent as much P and over 50 percent more K than a corn crop. Soil test and apply fertilizer and lime as required.
  • Crop rotation is important in soybean production to break disease and insect cycles and increase yields.
  • Timely weed control can prevent competition with the crop. If weeds compete during critical soybean stages, yield will be lost even though weeds are eventually controlled.
  • New sterile-carrier inoculants have increased yields in research studies and may merit testing on your farm.
  • Consider evaluating new production methods in side-by-side plots before using them more broadly.

Although dramatic new yield records for soybeans have excited growers in recent years, yield increases for soybeans have not kept pace with those of corn. Over the last 25 years, US average corn yields have increased by 1.6 percent per year while soybeans have only achieved a 1.27 percent per year gain. Some experts suggest that this discrepancy exists because many growers do not apply the same level of management to their soybeans as to their corn.

Soybeans were once considered much easier to manage than corn. Because they were planted later, they didn't need fungicide seed treatments. In the Midwest states, post-emergence disease and insect control were seldom needed. Soil fertility, harvest and storage were easier than for corn. Although some of these advantages still apply, others have changed. For example, soybeans are now planted earlier, so seed treatments may provide a significant return. Increasing soybean aphid and bean leaf beetle problems mean that scouting and spraying may now be necessary. Spread of soybean cyst nematode, sudden death syndrome and other diseases have increased management requirements for soybeans. Growers still taking a "minimal management" approach to soybean production are likely missing a significant opportunity to increase their bottom line.

A “Crop Insights” examines agronomic practices that may help increase soybean yields and profits. Click here to read the Insight.


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