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Boosting 2015 bean yields

By Staff | Mar 7, 2015

-Farm News photo by Kriss Nelson MITCH MONTGOMERY, DuPont Pioneer field agronomist, spoke to a group of producers and DuPont Pioneer professionals during the Pioneer Growing Point Agronomy seminar on Feb. 19 at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge.

FORT DODGE – Strategies for managing soybeans, the new concept of planting multi-hybrids and how to transition soils from a horizontal environment to a vertical were on the Pioneer’s agenda Feb. 19.

Pioneer was holding a Growing Point Agronomy seminar at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge.

Mitch Montgomery, a DuPont Pioneer field agronomist, said in order to achieve high yielding soybeans, “It is essential for high-yielding soybeans to set a large pod load, to fill a large pod load and to harvest a large pod load.”

According to Montgomery, in order to develop and retain high nodes and pod counts per acre, there needs to be an adequate stand established, adequate nodes per plant and adequate root development to support the pod retention.

Determining the proper plant population to get a stand that contributes to yield, Montgomery said, is crucial, as is breaking soil compaction in order to develop a good root system.

The planting date, Montgomery said, is also crucial to achieving high soybean yields.

“The highest yields come from those beans planted earlier in the season during the month of April compared to June,” he said.

Early soybean planting provides for increased sunlight for the plant giving it the opportunity, Montgomery said, to set four to five pods per node prior to bloom which typically occurs around June 21.

“The most important thing we can do is plant early and set the large pod load,” said Montgomery.

There are risks, Montgomery said that go along with early soybean planting such as frost and central Iowa’s heavy soils which tend to stay damp and cool increasing the chances for disease.

“If you are going to drive your yields with earlier planting,” he said, “you need to treat that seed to keep it protected.”

Plant populations

The new concept available to producers with the use of multi-hybrid planters allow for variety placement of seed throughout the field.

It sets hybrids specific to areas that may require a specialized hybrid.

To gain yields in poorer soils, such as those with iron deficiency chlorosis, Montgomery said, research found that increasing the seeding population can help increase yields in those particular problem areas, sometimes by double.

In 10 research locations last year, he said, the average response of an increased seeding rate in IDC areas showed a 4.8 bushel-per-acre increase.

“We are looking at two years of research, targeting those small areas with an increased seeding rate is economical and helps with the iron deficiency chlorosis expression of the field,” said Montgomery.

Vertical soil

Ken Ferrie, Farm Journal field agronomist and owner of Crop-Tech Consulting of Heyworth, Illinois, said it is crucial for the health of the soil and for plants to gain optimum nutrients and growth.

Producers should be considering transitioning from a horizontal format of working their ground to more of a vertical format to encourage vertical root growth.

Vertical environment, Ferrie explained, is a system that has to be managed with a systems approach by using a more up-and-down movement in the soil versus the more common sideways movement.

Horizontal tillage, he said, is accomplished with discs, field cultivators the moldboard plows. These implements will create a horizontal layer in the soil which makes it hard for a root system to grow properly.

The size of root system, he said, is determined not only by plant genetics, but also by the soils’ density and pore sizes.

Not all horizontal layers are man-made, Ferrie said. They can also be caused by a bulk density change in the soil.

Once the horizontal layers are broken up in the fall, Ferrie said, it is crucial to not put them back in the spring, while prepping the field for planting.

Level the field in the spring just at the surface, not down below and by not using an angle tool, Ferrie said.

Switching to a vertical environment may take some time and horizontal compaction layers can be found for years after they were created.

Ferrie said he has found plow soles still in the ground up to 20 years after they were created, even in environments where the soils went through years of freezing and thawing cycles.

In those areas where tillage isn’t an option or even some of those areas that can use tillage to help break up that horizontal layer, Ferrie said, the use of cover crops could help with the transition to a vertical environment.

“A cover crop may be the only cure for poor soil structure,” he said. “Especially in highly erodible ground you may not get to use tillage so you need to choose a cover crop geared for fixing the density problem.”

Ferrie said a fibrous cover crop, such as grasses, can be helpful as can tillage radishes, which are known to break through a compaction layers.

“There really is only so much a radish can do, but it still is an option,” said Ferrie.

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