It is time to be thinking about enrolling in the 2016 Soybean Yield Challenge and there are plenty of categories to get involved in.

The Illinois Soybean Association’s 2016 Yield Challenge categories are the same for 2016 as for 2015—both an ultimate yield contest and side-by-side comparisons.

Generating higher yields from your soybean acres is critical to your bottom line, whether it is by achieving higher raw yields or by measuring yield increases and profits against your traditional practices.  The availability of new opportunities, along with tighter profit margin conditions, warrants a renewed focus on how to select the best technologies and how to put these best management practices to use. Doing your own on-farm comparisons and tests is a good place to start.

Just proving higher yields are possible on your acres is exciting and enlightening and can lead to you implementing new beneficial practices. The 100 Bushel Challenge is a good tool to use to explore how to reach those higher yields. It is an excellent way to incorporate valuable ideas and recommendations from crop input suppliers and consultants as you reach towards new yield levels. It only takes a minimum of two harvested acres to qualify your entry for a possible $5,000 award, if your plot is the highest yield in the state above 100 Bushels. The same plot will automatically be entered into the District Shoot Out, looking for the highest raw soybean yield in your crop reporting district. That is worth $500 for the winners in each of the nine crop reporting districts in the state.

The same $25 entry fee into the 2016 Yield Challenge can also qualify you for the District Side-By-Side competition. The Side-By-Side is a realistic way to not only explore higher yields, but to also evaluate the ROI of your efforts. To compete in this category, it is necessary to compare a yield-enhancing practice or group of practices against your normal practices—a check plot versus a challenge plot. That gives you an evaluation tool to compare not only yield increase results, but also evaluate your costs versus benefits. It is good to know what your crop can do, but even better if you know how it paid off in profitability. The Yield Challenge does not ask you to share cost factors but you will know its benefits on your farm, information that’s beneficial every year but high on farmer’s radar with current prices.

What are those opportunities that benefit soybean yield?  How do you get the best coaching and ideas for your farm? The Yield Challenge is a great tool to use to work directly with ag suppliers, extracting their best recommendations for your plot. When you partner with suppliers as sponsors they want to see you succeed not only as an important client, but also to demonstrate the value they can bring to their other customers. Each year brings new product and practice opportunities.

2016 is not the time to relax your attention on higher soybean yield potentials. For more information on the Yield Challenge, you can go to the website at, contact Jim Nelson by email at, or call at 309-825-7542.

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About the Author: Jim Nelson