By Jerry Clark
With a lot of attention directed at corn production and prices over the past year, soybeans seem to be playing second string. Similar to the way the middle reliever pitcher is to the "closer" on a major league baseball team. The middle reliever, often called the "set-up man" keeps their team in the game until the "closer" can come in and save or win the game, gathering all the attention. Even though corn and soybeans are commonly used together in a crop rotation system, soybeans seem to be the "set-up man."
Since soybeans "set up" corn in the corn/soybean rotation, it is important to give soybeans attention. Just as a good "set-up man" in baseball usually has good command of several pitches, it takes management of several factors to increase the yield potential of soybeans.
The fastball is probably the most common pitch which pitchers have most control. Similarly, variety selection and genetics is one management factor soybean have control over. Variety selection and genetics can't be overlooked when attempting to increase yields. In fact, variety selection can be the most important factor in maximizing soybean yields. All things being equal, variety selection can influence yield more than 30%.
Planting date to soybeans is kind of like what the umpire is to the pitcher. You never know what the call is going to be. The weather and soil conditions will most likely influence planting date. However, delayed soybean plantings can cost as much as 0.4 bushels per day when delayed past the optimum planting date. Optimum planting dates are usually within the first two weeks of May depending where you are located in Wisconsin.
In addition to planting date, another factor is row spacing. Home plate and the strike zone for the "set-up man" are 17 inches. Narrowing soybean rows to something less than this can often lead to increased yield. The reason for this is because yield of soybeans grown in Wisconsin are largely limited by the short growing season. In general, production practices that encourage the greatest use of the sun's heat and light provides the best opportunity to maximize yields. One such practice is narrow row spacing (less than 30 inches).