Soybeans deserve early planting, too

John Zupancic bought a 16-row corn planter for 2010. But he didn’t buy row splitters. That was a planned decision, not a mistake.

“We kept our planter with row splitters so we can start planting soybeans when we start planting corn if conditions are right,” the Morgantown farmer says. “If we traded it in on a bigger planter with row splitters, we would have been committed to planting corn, then soybeans. We believe there’s value in getting soybeans planted on time, too.”

Barry Fisher, state agronomist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, agrees with Zupancic. “If it’s dry enough to plant corn, it’s dry enough to plant soybeans,” he says.

More importantly, Fisher doesn’t like carrying splitters while planting corn. “We don’t need extra weight on there when they’re not doing anything,” he says. “Especially if it’s a wet season, the more weight you carry, the more soil compaction you’ll create.”

Key Points

• If it’s dry enough to plant corn, it’s dry enough to plant soybeans.

• Soybeans also respond to early planting through higher yields.

• Why park the planter if corn is in by April 25, and conditions are still good?


Does the Crops Corner panel agree that it’s OK to plant soybeans in April? The panel consists of members of the Indiana Certified Crop Advisers. This month’s panel includes Jesse Grogan of LG Seeds, Lafayette; Dan Ritter, Purdue Extension ag educator, Newton County; and Gene Flaningam, Flaningam Ag Consulting LLC, Vincennes.

If we finish planting corn by April 25, should we wait two weeks, or move right into planting soybeans?

Flaningam: There is no real problem for planting soybeans in late April as long as the environment and soil physical conditions are correct. Look at the short-term weather forecast. Ideal soil and weather conditions after planting affect final plant stands, possibly sudden death syndrome later and final yields. It would be a good practice to apply a seed treatment to those early-planted soybeans. Seed treatments help reduce both fungi invasion and insect feeding on early-planted fields. (That assumes that the seed treatment also has insecticide properties.)

Grogan: Soybean planting can begin at the end of April if seedbed conditions are dry and ready. Usually highest yields are from soybeans [planted] in late April and early May. Choose varieties that have good emergence with adequate disease protection from sudden death syndrome and brown stem rot. Seed treatment insecticides and fungicides are beneficial for early planting in soils that are cool and wet. Seeding rates can range from 160,000 to 190,000 seeds per acre for early planting in narrow rows.

Ritter: If field conditions are favorable for planting, it’s hard to make a case for parking the planter. Data from Purdue University published in 2009, plus research trials at the University of Illinois from 2008, indicate the greatest yield advantage for planting soybeans comes in late April to early May.

So I would not wait. However, planting soybeans much earlier than the last week of April offers little yield advantage.

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Ditch extra units: Barry Fisher (far right) tells farmers they’re better off not carrying splitter units on the planter while planting corn.

This article published in the April, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.