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Six secrets to soybean success

By Staff | Sep 4, 2016

FARNHAMVILLE – Dr. Fred Below, professor of crop physiology at the University of Illinois, was the keynote speaker providing his Six Secrets of Soybean Success.

Below said there is a yield gap between those growing average yield soybean crops and those that are managing to achieve very high yields.

He said filling the yield gap will include increasing fertilizer program on soybean acres – something many producers tend to omit and only focus on fertilizing corn.

His six secrets are:

A). Weather. Below said that although a producer has no control over the weather, there are a few options producers can use to help combat drought and high temperatures.

Management tools, such as placed fertility, enhanced seed emergence and disease control, all help promote a strong root development that contribute to drought tolerance.

B). Fertility. The soybean plant provides about half of its nitrogen needs for itself from its root nodes. And typically, Below said most of the soybean fertilization comes from producers fertilizing their previous year’s corn crop.

“The other half comes from the soil from broken down corn residue,” he said. “The soybean is a large nitrogen needing plant, needing about 4 to 5 pounds of nitrogen for every bushel it makes, which is a lot more than corn.”

In order to figure out how to grow 80-bushel soybeans, Below said there needs to be a way to add nitrogen to a soybean crop and there is a lot of research going on about that need.

Banding phosphorus into the soils to make it readily available for the soybean plant is also warranted for higher yields.

Below said the soybean plant’s need for phosphorus is all season long and studies have shown that a 70- to 80-bushel-per-acre crop will actually remove equal or more phosphorus from the soils than a corn crop.

C). Seed selection. Choosing the fullest maturity soybean will typically bring the biggest yields.

“Usually, the fullest maturity of the region will usually have the biggest yields,” Below said. “There’s something about utilizing the entire growing season.”

D). Foliar apps. “If you use a fungicide or an insecticide, it will help keep those leaves healthy for as long as you can,” said Below. “When an R3 foliar application is applied, it is protecting those leaves right where the majority of the pods are formed.”

More pods, he said, are formed in the middle of the plant, so it is crucial to keep that section of the plant healthy.

E). Seed treatments. These protect a high-yield potential soybean by promoting seed germination, seedling establishment and early vigor, as well as disease and insect control.

Seed treatments not only help at the beginning, but for a majority of the growing season.

“We often see the impact of a seed treatment all of the way into the second week in July,” said Below.

F). Row spacing. Below said he believes the future success of growing a high-yielding corn crop will be 20-inch rows and says that soybeans will follow suit.

“20-inch rows are a great compromise from 30-inch rows to drilled beans,” said Below. “At 20 inches, there is still enough room to allow for air flow throughout the beans.”

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