Most every major purchase you make comes with an owner’s manual that tells you the right ways to have a successful run with your item. Your car comes with an owner’s manual, your lawn mower, even your pet rock did as I recall. You get an owner’s manual after you’ve taken possession of the goods, which means it is a separate publication from the product guide you look at prior to purchase. If your soybean seed purchase this year came with an owner’s manual, there definitely would be a section on uniformity of stand establishment.
Let’s be clear: hundreds of factors coalesce each growing season that can potentially impact productivity. Some you can control, others you cannot. You are reading about just one variable here, but it is gaining the attention of more and more yield specialists looking to gain an advantage over the typical farmer in the neighborhood. Here we go!
All Together Now
The date you plant, what equipment you use to plant, why you plant: they all work in concert with HOW you plant. You know planting with perfection leads to higher yields with your corn crop, but soybeans too? It sure can. Bonus bushels come to those who achieve a stand that emerges all at once. Inconsistencies in stand emergence render those late bloomers as not much more than parasites holding back the productivity of their bigger siblings. Don’t believe it? Find those late emerging plants and mark them. Watch them throughout the growing season. Take pictures at maturity. You will become a believer in the yield power of uniform emergence.
In this picture, the plant on the left demonstrates the full producers in this field which came up right away. The plants to the right were ones who never had a chance to reach their potential.
What thoughts come to mind when you see this picture concerning commonly held soybean production cannon beliefs?
- Anything that is not a full producing plant is simply competition stealing nutrients away from those that are. You believe this about weeds. Believe it about soybean stragglers.
- With a warm germ labeled at 90%, you already start out of the gate perhaps never able to realize production from 10% of your purchased seed. Of those that are left, can you afford to waste them?
- “Beans can bush out to cover for losses in stand.” How much did you pay for that bag of seed? Do you treat your corn crop this way? It’s the year 2022 folks! We have new herbicide resistance traits in play now, new improvements in genetics, better defensive packages and agronomics available. Give them their best shot to reward you.
Don’t want any runts to take pictures of? Here’s what to do:
In the past you have heard the saying “plant to moisture.” This alone just is not enough. Plant for seed placement uniformity where you can achieve all five of these criteria:
- Spacing horizontally
- Soil Moisture
- Soil Temperature
- Seed-To-Soil Contact
Now, some folks will tell you that soybeans can be successfully planted as shallow as ¾- or even ½-inch. While soil types vary and all have an impact on the depth you target, you will absolutely not achieve all five points listed above at that range year in and year out. I have personally witnessed stands planted at a depth of 2.5-inches emerge sooner and better than those at 1-inch. Where is the sweet spot? It is where the five criteria all intersect.
What else can you do to get that stand all out through the door at once?
- Set up your planter to eliminate previous crop residue from being a hinderance in the seed furrow.
- Plant into fit soil conditions.
- Ask your seed supplier for inclusion of a premium seed treatment.
- Slow down. Your planter may singulate at a high ground speed, but bounce happens.
- Understand that setting your planter for a particular depth isn’t the same as actually placing seed at that depth. Get out of the tractor cab, dig, measure and confirm.
Your Average Production History should be on an upward trend. Triple-digit soybean yields are a great target for you to shoot at. It will take a year-round approach that exceeds the typical “Plan Plant Protect” starting point. Details matter. Timing is critical. Making each and every seed count with a flawlessly emerged initial stand would be one of the first key items addressed in my seed soybean owner’s manual.