Consider planting 2 crops at same time

One farmer in central Indiana plants soybeans in late March and has for approximately the past 10 years. He claims that almost every year, they are his best-yielding soybeans. Yet few have followed his lead.

Agronomists contend it’s because of the risks that still line up against super-early soybean planting, particularly on wet soils in fields prone to disease. It’s also because there’s no solid proof that soybeans planted super early yield more.

Key Points

Some growers get by planting soybeans extremely early.

The risks of super-early planting go up on wet soils due to disease issues.

Make sure pass with vertical-tillage tool isn’t creating soil compaction problems.


“There does not appear to be a yield benefit to early-planted soybeans in Indiana,” says Jeff Nagel, Ceres Solutions, Lafayette, an Indiana Certified Crop Adviser. “Several growers have the capacity to plant corn and soybeans at the same time. If ground conditions are favorable, planting soybeans any time after mid-April can work well.”

Soil drainage

Soil drainage and its link to disease history in soybeans on your farm are major considerations before you start the soybean planter at the same time, assuming it’s early in the season, Nagel says.

“We tend to see more seedling diseases and sudden death syndrome in early planted beans,” he notes. “If a field has a history of sudden death syndrome, those fields should be marked for later in the planting sequence.”

Betsy Bower, Ceres Solutions, Terre Haute, also a CCA, agrees that SDS should be factored into the planting-decision equation. It’s not been a problem in some areas in a couple of years, but the fungus is still active in the soil and could become a problem given the right set of environmental conditions, she notes.

Going back over the past 10 years, SDS has been so destructive that some growers don’t consider planting soybeans until mid-May or later, Bower observes. That’s true even if soil and environmental conditions are ideal. The weather can change in Indiana within 24 hours. If a big storm dumps a rain and it stays wet, that could favor disease.

SDS isn’t the only disease to worry about, Bower notes. Phytophthora has been around a long time and is still present in Indiana soybean fields. It’s a bigger threat on wetter soils.

Tillage changes

Several vertical-tillage tools of many makes have been purchased in recent years to help with residue management and timely planting, Nagel notes. Operating these tools can provide a benefit, he realizes, but in some cases they are operated to “dry out the soil” since it is too wet to plant.

While the tool is operated at shallow depth and the jury is still out on this one, Nagel believes it’s worth careful thought.

“Field conditions should be evaluated before operating these tools, or shallow compaction from wheel traffic and sometimes the tool itself can occur,” he says.

“Timely planting is important, but it’s only one part of the production system,” Nagel concludes. “Ultimately, weather during the growing season will be the key driver of yields.”

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Use Wisely: Vertical-tillage tools are versatile, but make sure you’re not creating soil compaction, Jeff Nagel says.

This article published in the February, 2012 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.