Now that harvest 2015 has started, let’s look at some of the things we have learned during this growing season.
1. Variety selection is still one of the most critical choices we make in soybean production: The weather this year again made it obvious that the correct maturity, a strong disease package and SCN resistance for a farmer can be a deal maker or breaker. One of the best assets to your farm is a good seedsman that knows his stuff.
2. Soil fertility is as important in soybeans as in corn: again in 2015 with our wildly crazy weather patterns, if it was cold and wet or hot and dry, good soil fertility helped keep that crop as stress-free as possible. The importance of phosphorus as a soybean yield-booster is showing up early here in southern Illinois. I expect that to be one of the constants we notice as we continue harvest. Growers need to pay more attention to this nutrient.
3. Weeds are getting out of hand: weed resistance management may be the single most important issue we face in 2016. However, I can remember a day when we couldn’t control Johnsongrass, cockleburs and giant ragweed easily either. As in the past, diligence and using all your assets will be critical. The days of a quart of glyphosate twice a year and having clean beans are over. While glyphosate is still an important tool, it is no longer a cure for all ills. Education on resistance management is your best tool here.
4. Biologicals and foliars work to tweak yield: as harvest continues we are seeing where applications of various stress-mitigation products are consistently adding yield. As we begin to plan for 2016 we need to look at economic return from every input. I am looking at a farm today that we added fungicide, insecticide and a foliar stress-relief product to and which returned nearly $75 per acre above cost over the untreated check. That is still relevant at $8.00 soybeans.
5. Soybeans are a long-haul crop: as I have preached for the last 3 – 4 years, we have to manage our bean crop from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Our best yields are coming on farms that our last application was made at R3 or August 10th or later. We are even experimenting with applications at R5 or later, but that is still pretty inconsistent.
In summary, I think that we, as soybean growers or the consultants who advise them, need to spend our winter looking at our soil test data, tissue test data, yield data and any other parameter that is relevant to prepare for 2016. Let’s not just look where we can cut inputs to save money, but also analyze what worked economically to improve yield and profitability. A wise old man told me 30 years ago “You can’t sell what you didn’t raise; you can negotiate a price for a crop, but you can’t sell what’s in an empty bin.” This was during some tough times in the late eighties when we were all looking to cut costs. It is still a relevant statement today.
Mike Wilson is a Specialty Products Marketing Coordinator at Wabash Valley Service Company. For over 20 years, he has been working with farmers in ten counties in southeastern Illinois to improve economic yield in soybeans, corn and wheat. Mike has been a CCA since 1994 and is looking forward to being a part of the Soy Envoy program.