Soybean planting progress is well behind the five-year average in several major soybean-producing states. In fact, Ohio and Indiana are at 26 percent and 49 percent planted, respectively. North Dakota and South Dakota are also well behind normal planting averages with only about half the soybean crop planted. Although late-planted soybeans don’t have as much time to develop the way earlier planted soybeans do, growers can still maximize yields and revenue by changing a few cultural practices and following best-management protocols.

“The loss of yield due to late planting of soybeans can be minimized,” says Jim Beuerlein, Ph.D., professor emeritus in agronomy Extension at Ohio State University and technical advisor to Becker Underwood. “The goal of normally planted soybeans is to develop a complete leaf canopy that collects as much sunlight as possible by the time flowering begins. To duplicate this condition in late-planted soybeans requires using narrower row widths, such as 7.5 inches apart or no wider than 15 inches apart, which will help late-planted soybeans produce a better canopy.”

Soybeans planted later in the season also tend to result in smaller plants with fewer nodes, explains Beuerlein. Therefore, it’s important to establish higher plant populations so the total number of nodes per acre will be nearer to normal. “A 20 percent increase in seeding rate for late-planted soybeans should be adequate for most fields,” recommends Beuerlein. “Increasing the seedling rate can also help raise the height of the lower pods to minimize the number of pods lost at harvest,” he adds.

Because soybeans are photoperiod-sensitive, Beuerlein says the delay in maturity will be only one-third to one-half the delay in planting date. Research has shown that when planting is delayed by three weeks, plant maturity is delayed by only seven to 10 days, so it may not be necessary to switch to a shorter-season variety. Late-planted soybeans often are planted in less-than-optimum soil conditions – conditions that tend to support the presence and virulence of soil-borne pathogens. Applying a fungicide treatment to soybean seed prior to planting will help control seedling diseases and increase root structure and mass to support a faster-growing plant.

For producers who end up planting soybeans on acres that were originally intended to be planted to corn and have already received 100 or more pounds of nitrogen per acre, Beuerlein says applying an inoculant is probably not necessary. The soybean plants will use the available nitrogen first and residual bacteria will develop nodules which will likely produce enough nitrogen to satisfy the crop’s remaining needs. However, for fields in which nitrogen hasn’t been applied, the use of an inoculant is still a best-management practice for optimizing yield potential and profitability.

The BioStacked VAULT HP growth-enhancement seed treatment system pairs a high-count rhizobia inoculant and a patented biological performance enhancer with Integral biological fungicide. Collectively, these biological components stimulate rhizobial activity; help extend protection from key soil-borne fungal diseases; and can enhance root health, nodulation and nutrient uptake of the plant.

“Planting soybeans later than normal doesn’t necessarily have to result in low yields, if you think about the plant’s physiology and make a few adjustments,” sums up Beuerlein.

Dr. Beuerlein is recognized as a leader in soybean and soybean inoculant research. As a consultant to Becker Underwood, he helps seed treaters and growers recognize the benefits of advanced growth-enhancement seed-treatment systems for soybeans.