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Maximize your yield potential

Several factors are included when trying to maximize yield potential for soybeans. In today’s “plant early and plant fast” environment, growers often look for tools to increase efficiencies and minimize risk. The number of products available today for soybean growers is almost endless.

We need to keep in mind as farmers and agronomists that no one silver bullet will factors need to be considered to achieve maximum yields. The most important factor to focus on is intense management. Soybeans today come loaded with many options from the supplier; the challenge is placement, planting and environment.

One of the first management options to consider is variety selection. While most of the selection process has already occurred for 2011, be sure you have enough varieties to fit multiple soil types, maturities, insects and disease challenges. When choosing varieties, yield is a primary consideration; however, don’t overlook stability in a range of environments. I often see growers planting only two or three varieties to maximize harvest efficiencies in the fall.

Maturity group is a management tool I receive numerous questions about. Different maturity groups adjust the period from flowering to harvest maturity. This can be an issue for farmers who prefer to harvest soybeans in an early and rapid fashion. When desiring all varieties available for harvest at the same time frame, consider the yield potential possibly lost.

Plant some test strips

By planting soybean varieties of different maturity groups, farmers can minimize yield risk associated with late-season environmental factors. While this may work for some growers, consider the odds of hitting that 100-bushel goal consistently. I’m not sure you would pull a livestock trailer with a Mustang or take your truck to the drag race! I guess you could put a computer chip in the pickup. Just take a few moments to review your placement strategy for the varieties you have purchased.

I also encourage farmers to plant small test plots of varieties for comparison; this could be the most profitable two hours you spend all season based on what you learn. Compare different maturities, treatments and disease packages. How products perform based on your expectations is critical to maximizing your success.

Planting date is a matter of choosing the optimum seedbed conditions. Farmers need to focus on seedbed conditions and calendar date, and not rely solely on soil temperature when choosing planting timing for soybeans. Farmers need to consider the conditions the day of planting and the conditions following planting to maximize yield potential.

In Iowa soybeans should be planted the last week of April and first week of May. When considering planting dates, realize your equipment capacity. The acres planted per day are highly variable based on each individual farm operation.

Soil condition is the key

Planting soybeans 1 to 1.5 inches deep in a dry seedbed are key factors in successful stand establishment. While seed treatments to manage insect and disease pressure from early planting are beneficial, they are not a substitute for poor soil conditions. Early-season soybean growth and development have direct correlation to final-season yield.

Harvesting high-yielding soybeans begins with choosing the right variety, planting early in good seedbed conditions and managing early-season stresses.

For farmers to maximize soybean yields, they need to maximize their management. Often soybean management takes a backseat to corn.

We have numerous silver-bullet options for soybeans today, but relying on those tools alone, with the absence of good management, will not produce the results we hope to achieve. Set your goals high and manage for high yields in 2011.

Saeugling is the ISU Extension field agronomist for southwest Iowa.

This article published in the April, 2011 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.