The latest Monsoons to strike the Eastern Cornbelt may have caused some farmers to make the preliminary decision about giving up on corn and trying to get some beans in the ground when the next planting window occurs.  If you are among them, there are several resources for information about switching from corn to soybeans and some of the issues to consider.

As the June 1 calendar approaches and your would-be cornfields continue to get weedier, the prospect of planting soybeans instead gives the opportunity for some cash at least.  The choice that must be made is whether to apply for prevented corn planting indemnity or switch to beans.  Of course for those without crop insurance, the switch issue should be financially evaluated.

For a handy decision aid, in which you plug in your own numbers and prospective yields, you can use the University of Illinois spread sheet.  However, be sure to evaluate your personal spot in the Cornbelt, since the spreadsheet was developed by Illinois economists for use by Illinois farmers.  Anyone in other states should make the necessary adjustments.  To reconcile its numbers with your area, beware that southern Illinois has lighter soils which make soybeans more competitive with corn, and the northern two-thirds of Illinois have more fertile soils that keep corn a more profitable crop because of higher yield potential, even later in the planting date spectrum.

If you are thinking of planting less corn and more beans because of the calendar, you are not the only one, and Minnesota economists have suggested that because commodity prices have been so sensitive to the weather, such a trend would raise the price of corn and lower the price of soybeans, under several different scenarios.  One of their main conclusions is that corn will remain more valuable than beans and even a lower yield may provide more net revenue.  They also provide a spreadsheet that may help you make your decision.

If your decision making continues to point toward soybeans as your answer, that’s fine, you know your fields, their yield potential, and you have to make the hard decisions on profitability and feed your family.  No one should criticize your decision.  So let’s help from that point.

Ohio State agronomists who are in the center of gravity for flooded fields, have been thinking about the issues that should be managed when switching to soybeans.

  1. If you have had continuous corn in a field, it may be full of gray leaf spot, anthracnose, and other pathogens, so plan to get your soybeans planted there first and reduce the old corn residue that is harboring the fungi.
  2. If you have fields that were soybeans in 2009 and 2010, another year will lead to more soybean pathogens and increased amounts of them.  You will have to deal with that, so beware that the worst are going to be soybean cyst nematode and frogeye leafspot.  They will reduce yield if planted to susceptible varieties, so obtain varieties that have the best resistance.  If you have fields with high SCN problems, try to avoid putting soybeans back there if possible.
  3. Plant soybean varieties that also have resistance to phytophthora, since wet soils are a great environment for that fungus.
  4. Seed that will be going into saturated soils need to receive a treatment with a fungicide that will fight a broad spectrum of fungi and water molds.
  5. If your soybean crop interrupts a continuous corn program, your fertility will help the beans, and the beans this year will give you a nitrogen credit that will reduce your nitrogen bill next fall.

Summary:
Many farmers are being challenged by the wet planting conditions and the late date, subsequently are considering a shift from corn to beans.  Work through any we-based decision aids to help make the financial decisions, since costs, prices and yields are different for every farm.  If the decision aids support the switch to soybeans, take a look at the agronomic challenges that need to be addressed with planting beans into soils that may be full of moisture-loving fungi.