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The small things that make big soybean yields

It is a well-worn maxim but a true one for Ricky Stallings of Belvidere, N.C. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” he quips.

Well, Stallings grows soybeans right. This year he set the mark to beat, taking the 2009 highest-yield award by producing 83.2 bushels per acre in his contest entry plot.

“There are no secrets,” he says. “You do your homework and find a seed that works on the soil type you have. You try to get your spacing right. I always think you need to keep a good planter and a good combine — the planter to plant the seed and the combine to harvest, because you can’t afford to have anything go to waste when you’re planting or when you’re harvesting. And those are two pieces of equipment you can’t afford to have break down.”

Perquimans County Cooperative Extension director Lewis Smith says Stallings is a farmer who goes the extra mile to get things right.

“Ricky is the kind of farmer that pays attention to detail,” Smith says. “He tries to do the small things that work and that will improve his crop. For instance, with soil testing he follows the soil recommendations and puts out what it calls for to make his crops the best possible. He’s good at calibrating his drill. He has a reasonably new drill, and some of the newer technology available on those helps him get his plant stands more consistent. That technology helps him to save some money, too, since he’s not as likely to overplant populations. Ricky is timely with applications of herbicides — he doesn’t let the weeds get away from him before he gets an application out there. And his harvest is timely. He does the small things to make the big things work out for him.”

Stallings planted a new variety to get his soybean winning entry, Syngenta S44-D5 at 60 pounds per acre. That came out to 177,0000 seeds planted per acre, at 3.5 seeds per row-foot. He chose a 10-inch width for his narrow rows, because at one point he had a 15-inch planter that he didn’t like because he felt the rows were too far apart. “When I bought a new Great Plains drill last year, I knew I wanted to grow corn in 20-inch rows. So I bought the drill and set up on 10 inches. That way I could lock every other row up and plant my 20-inch corn.”

It was the first time he’s ever used the Roundup Ready S44-D5 variety. “From what I’ve experienced with it, it seems to stand up well,” Stallings says. “It obviously yields well on my soil. I planted it on both sides of a road. On one side the land was more sandy than on the other. The sandy side produced 73 bushels per acre, and the side with blacker ground produced 83 bushels per acre.”

Key Points

• Belvidere grower yields 83.2 bushels to top soybean entries.

• Timely applications are key to building yields.

• Improved varieties are leading the way to higher yields.

Seed comes first

The seed choice is especially key to Stallings’ way of thinking.

“Everybody is searching right now, trying to find out what works better for them,” he says. “The seed companies are making better seeds all the time. The crops keep getting bigger every year, whether corn or soybeans. I think we have the potential for 100-bushel yields in the coming years.”

He originally planned to grow wheat on the field that he used for his winning soybean entry. His intention was to double-crop his soybeans after harvesting his wheat.

“I fertilized it for wheat and put in enough potash for the beans,” says Stallings. “But, the wheat didn’t come out, so I ended up destroying it. The insurance man came out to take a look at it, then let me go on out and plant the beans on time. I didn’t add any more fertilizer, other than what I had put down for the wheat.”

When he planted the ground it was a little wet. He wanted to level it, so he went in with a disk, “dyna-drived” it (with a Dyna-Drive rotary surface cultivator), and then followed with the drill.

“The beans came up well,” he says. “They grew off well and we had good rains. The beans looked excellent the whole year. I went in and sprayed them with Roundup. I didn’t need to use anything else. I never had a worm problem, so I never sprayed them for worms.”

They were planted conventional till because of his wheat, but he also uses no-till and has no real preference for one over the other. When fuel is expensive, it is an incentive to use no-till. But he likes to break his soil every other year, regardless.

Winning ways

In his description of the winners this year, North Carolina State University crop scientist and contest supervisor Jim Dunphy noted some interesting practices among the winners:

Six of the seven yield winners were no-till entries (Ricky Stallings was the seventh).

Four of the seven winning entries were planted in April.

The five highest yields were attained with either a Group 4 or late Group 3 variety.

Five of the seven winning entries were in row widths of 10 inches or less.

This article published in the March, 2010 edition of CAROLINA-VIRGINIA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.