Hundred-bushel soybeans are more than just in the realm of possibility today. Quite a few producers have done so officially and unofficially. We know it takes good soils, good weather, high-end management and attention to every little detail. I know it’s hard to think 100 bushels when you are hoping just to get in the 70-bushel range consistently and make a profit, but here are some suggestions to consider if you decide to try.
Of course the key is having the right luck with the weather, right soil conditions in the spring, early planting, no hail, and rain with moderate temperatures in August—and most of these are beyond your control. If all those cooperate, you then need to follow the best management practices for your area.
First is variety selection. Start by selecting a variety based on soil placement and yield potential. Then select varieties with a strong defensive package for your area and potential problems.
Second is rotation. While many growers run a fifty-fifty corn-soybean rotation, planting corn for 2 or 3 yields will give a natural bump to soybean yield. Soybeans face many disease organisms from planting to harvest, but after a 2- or 3-year corn rotation, fewer disease organisms will remain in the soil.
Third is tillage. Refrain from doing too much tillage. However, there is some benefit to working the soil before planting soybeans. Cut back on tillage to save production costs.
Fourth is planting date. Plant soybeans early, beginning after April 20 and try to be done by May 1.
Fifth is population. When planting in rows, growers can push population down to 140,000 or under, save on seed costs and achieve the same yield potential. However, to produce high yields it probably pays to up populations by 10 to 20%. There is no penalty to yield and only a potential upside if too many seedlings fail to make it.
Sixth is row spacing. This is a long-standing argument. Narrow rows outperform wide-inch rows, so plant at 15- or 20-inch spacing instead of 30 inches. And there seems to be no benefit to going to 7.5 inches, but if used, seed rate will have to go up. Growers can save on seed by getting better seed singulation and depth placement using a planter vs. a drill.
Seventh is controlling pests and diseases. After selecting a variety with the right defensive package, seed treatments get you off to a good start. Then scout, watch the weather and monitor what is happening in the region or state before triggering an insecticide or fungicide application.
Eighth is weed management. Know your weeds, start early with a residual and use multiple modes of action. Glyphosate is still the best grass killer available, but can’t be counted on with broadleaf weeds.
Ninth is fertility. Fertilize not just for corn, but for soybeans as well. Try to keep soil test levels for P and K in the moderate or medium category. Then apply removal rates of P and K, based on yield goal, before the soybeans. If you believe you are going to produce over 80 bushels, be prepared to add supplemental N.
Tenth is harvest. Harvest when the crop is ready and a bit on the early side at 14% moisture. Properly adjust the combine and go slowly. Reckless harvesting can loss several bushels per acre.
Agronomist Dr. Daniel Davidson posts blogs on agronomy-related topics. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.