Every season brings new challenges and opportunities, and the 2017 soybean season certainly had its share.

Compared to our surrounding soybean-producing states, Illinois soybean harvest is definitely ahead of schedule and even ahead of last year’s harvest timeframe and average. It seems like several growers are harvesting their early planted soybeans first. Or some are harvesting their driest corn, switching to beans, and then finishing up harvest with the remaining corn crop. The chart below shows the harvest progress for soybeans for Illinois, surrounding states and the full soybean crop.


During harvest, it’s important to reflect on the past season and understand what got us to this point and what needs to be addressed for the following year, so here is my “Good, Bad and Ugly” roundup for the 2017 crop.

The Good
Walking fields this summer I was happy with the quality of the stand, root system and canopy development, all important elements to building a good yield.

Across our state several producers commented on how great performance has been thus far during harvest and how they were trying to understand how they could be getting these amazing yields considering the season.

I’m often asked what caused this. A soybean is a system and it’s never one thing that influences final yield. However, I believe that all the elements of high-yield beans aligned this year. Even though there were challenges during planting and some heat and drought stress during the middle and end of summer. The crop had a strong root system, good plant counts and an aggressive canopy that allowed for maximum sunlight interception. Not to mention we experienced great weather and minimal cloud cover during key reproductive stages in August; catching some of those early August rains also helped in some regions.

Other items that supported strong yields were the utilization of fungicide and insecticide applications during R3–R4. In talks with growers across Illinois, they reported their beans are showing an 8 to 12 bu/A yield advantage over non-treated beans. Several growers challenged themselves this past year to host a “Top Yield” trial to elevate their typical management practices.

The Bad
The long, hot and dry growing season allowed weeds, such as waterhemp, to thrive, limiting maximum growth and yield. Waterhemp seeds can germinate through late summer, so producers who utilized a layering of residuals, or the new XtendiMax® or Engenia® herbicides, had better control and better yields.

Dicamba – Yes, this new “dicamba” technology presented some difficult challenges and learning curves for the industry. And yes, some of the impacted, non-targeted fields, looked bad visually. However, upon harvest, yield checks showed little to no negative impact on yield. As with any new technologies, the industry must come together to learn, educate and adapt.

The exciting value from this new technology is that waterhemp has never experienced this chemistry before in a crop season. What growers need to remember is that the waterhemp we are battling in Illinois has already been exposed, repeatedly, to glyphosate, glufosinate and PPO chemistries—and today they have minimal effectiveness. Nearly every producer and retailer will agree that waterhemp and Palmer weed species are increasingly harder to control and manage.

So, even though there were some bad or challenging moments in 2017, we need to learn from this season and continue to educate producers, custom applicators and tender drivers to adopt best practices so this technology remains available as a sustainable weed management system for years to come. We don’t want to see what happened to glyphosate also happen to Xtend® and Enlist™ beans, as our control options for waterhemp and Palmer are already limited.

As it relates to soybeans, the only “ugly” item I can think of is the current and future market value in local and international markets. The world is just not in an aggressive buying mode and that results in a lot of volatility and uncertainty at the producer level. Not only are producers marketing their 2017 crop, but they should be actively working on developing their 2018 crop budget, getting product and prices secured, while not over-extending themselves with credit or liquidating equity. The saying is “You will never go broke selling at a profit.” Working with a proactive grain marketing strategy always provides less risk.

Learn, Educate, Adapt
2017 brought several challenges along with great opportunities. As soybean producers and stakeholders, we must remind ourselves why we do what we do every day. At the end of the day we all have a passion that was passed down to us from our parents, grandparents or a good friend or mentor in life. Let’s all learn from 2017, spend time to educate each other and adapt for 2018, and everyone will have made a positive impact not only in our industry, but in the lives of the people and customers that we support.

CCA Todd Steinacher is an agronomist at AgriGold. He works with growers to better manage their nitrogen and weed control needs, along with understanding the best way to estimate cost to generate a strong ROI. He is a 2017 Illinois Soybean Association CCA Soy Envoy.

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About the Author: Todd Steinacher

Steinacher is an ISA CCA Soy Envoy alum and currently supports ISA on agronomic content as well as serving as an Illinois CCA board member. He was recently awarded the 2020 IL CCA of the Year & the 2021 International CCA of the Year. He has over 15 years agronomic experience, currently working with AgriGold and GROWMARK previously. Steinacher has an associate degree from Lincoln Land Community College, a B.S. in agronomy and business from Western Illinois University and a master’s degree in crop science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.