Eye on 100

Roger Baumfalk, Avon, S.D., is shooting to produce 100-bushel-per-acre soybeans.

“We might not have had the genetic potential in the past to reach 100 bushels per acre. But there are a lot of new things coming now. I think I have a shot at it,” he says.

Baumfalk’s top yields used to be about 40 bushels per acre. Now his top yields are in the 70s. He produced 78 bushels per acre in 2009, and 70 and 73 bushels per acre in 2010, winning two divisions in the South Dakota Soybean Association’s first soybean yield contest.

Key Points

South Dakota farmer Roger Baumfalk pushes soybean yields.

His top yields have gone from the 40s to the 70s in bushels per acre.

He plows no-till savings into his experiments with new products.

Good foundation

Baumfalk’s run at producing 100-bushel-per-acre soybeans in South Dakota starts with the soil.

Baumfalk, who farmed in Nebraska with his father and operated a hunting lodge in South Dakota, bought a farm seven years ago along the Missouri bluffs in southeast South Dakota.

“We started with a lot of eroded soils with low organic matter and high pH,” he explains.

With continuous no-till and a corn-corn-soybean rotation, topsoil organic levels have risen from as little as 1% to as much as 5% in some places.

To reduce the soil pH, Baumfalk applies ammonium sulfate periodically.

He tests the soil, adds inoculants to the seed when planting to increase the nitrogen-fixing rhizobia on the soybean plants’ roots, and applies extra nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and several micronutrients.

“Even though soybeans produce their own nitrogen, I don’t think they can produce enough to support the high yields I’m shooting for,” he says.

Eliminates pests, stress

Baumfalk scouts all his fields himself and goes to great lengths to eliminate weed, disease and insect pressure.

He applies fungicide routinely, using both curative and preventive compounds.

He stays on top of the aphid population, spraying soybeans as many as four times a season.

He plants early — mid-April, when possible. He aims for a stand of 165,000 plants per acre in 22-inch rows.

He experiments with new products whenever possible. He’s currently testing biological compounds, foliar fertilizers and growth regulators.

Economics

Baumfalk plows some of the money he saves by no-tilling back into intensive management inputs. He has a bare-bones equipment lineup — just a planter, combine, sprayer and tractor — and he spends about $30 per acre less on fuel, labor and repairs than if he were conventionally tilling soybeans, he says.

“Putting some of that savings into intensive management is a good investment,” he says.

Keeps farming fun

There’s another payoff to shooting for higher yields. “It’s interesting to see what works and what doesn’t,” Baumfalk says. “It makes farming fun.”

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CLOSE-UP: Roger Baumfalk, who’s on a quest to produce 100 bushels of soybeans per acre, gets down to ground level to check the emerging soybean plants for pests.

This article published in the February, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.