Maximizing Soybean Yield

Various sources are predicting that 2016 will see an increase in soybean acreage. So, here are some tips on how to produce higher soybean yields.

1. Variety selection- According to some sources, if you are planting a variety that is two years old or older, you may be giving up as much as $13 or more per acre.  Check independent yield trials such as University trials that are local or that are similar to your growing conditions, local side by side trials, and field days that feature variety comparisons to get as much information possible about varieties that fit your growing conditions.

2. Soil pH - pH is critical. Soybeans have a taproot which releases hydrogen into the soil. This creates a zone of concentrated acidity around the root. Optimal soil pH range is between 6.3 and 6.5 as this range maximizes nutrient availability and biological nitrogen fixation while minimizing soybean cyst nematode (SCN) population growth.

3. Balance fertility - Higher yields demand close attention to soil fertility status to avoid a lack of proper nutrient supply to plants. Soybean is a huge user of potassium. Potassium is involved in water management and disease prevention.

4. Quality of root zone - This will improve water-holding capacity of the soil and plant resiliency.  This includes  managing soybean cyst nematode populations, using fungicide and insecticide seed treatments, soil drainage, managing compaction and fertility. Improving any or all of these conditions will produce healthier roots which will allow the plant to take full advantage of its yield potential.

5.  Rotation - Rotation almost always increases yield. This appears to be true for all soil types. Yield increases of 5, 7 and 10-15 bushels per acre have been reported after 2, 3, and 4 years of corn respectively.

6. Inoculate seed - If soybeans haven't been grown in a field for a few years, inoculant is needed.  In some years as much as a 2 bushel yield increase has been reported where inoculant was used on a regular basis.  If in doubt, inoculant is cheap insurance with today's soybean prices.

7. Plant early - Plant as early as conditions allow to take advantage of as much of the growing season as possible.

8. Spacing and population - The   greatest yield advantage is form 15- and 10-inch row spacing.  Data from several Midwest Universities indicate that a final stand of 100,000 to 125,000 plants per acre will provide the best return on investment.

9. Mange weeds early - This reduces stress on the soybean and competition for nutrients, water and sunlight.

10. Hope the weather cooperates.

Submitted: Joni Harper, Agronomy Specialist