It is well known that Dan Arkels, a LaSalle County grower, was the first grower in Illinois to break the 100-bushel yield barrier and have it officially verified across a commercial scale. But how did Arkels’ yield get that high? What did he do that helped him join the club of growers in the U.S. that have hit the century mark? The problem with contest winners is that they are often secretive about what they did. They share information based on what sponsors provided, but keep close to their chest their proprietary secrets. But, not Arkels. He was willing to share what he did and how he reached that goal.

Arkels acknowledges that weather this year played an important role and that the strength of their effort came from the team that helped achieve this goal. That team included a Pioneer seed dealer, a Stoller representative, a Rosen representative and a GRAINCO FS agronomist. The team met every two weeks at the farm to look at the field and review their strategy.

Arkels noted that back in July when a period of dry weather set in, it would have been easy to give up. But the team encouraged him to go the distance. “July was dry and I questioned whether we should continue the program. But we agreed to keep at it and the rain returned on August 5. The treatments kept the crop on its toes and then the rains returned. We felt the crop never missed a beat, even though it had been dry.”

Don Stork, formerly with Stoller, added, “We experienced three distinct seasons this past summer. Up until R1 and R2 (flower) weather conditions were good. It was dry in July, at R3 and R4, a critical period for setting pods. However, the weather turned ideal during pod fill, and we also saw another big flush of flowers that turned into pods.”

High yield producers always have a good foundation agronomy program and then stack on new technologies. Without a good foundation program and removal of some key limiting factors, the added technology can’t provide its full value.

Arkels’ team had good foundation agronomy and then stacked on advanced technologies with precision to reach the century mark. Dave Callan, agronomist with GRAINCO FS, said they monitored fields, watched development and adjusted their strategy as needed. Another example of precision was spraying when conditions were right. “We held up a spray until it was sunny and the plant was active to get the most uptake and response. And we did not let dry weather stop us.”

The general practices Arkels used are well known by now. Last fall he deep ripped his field and then made two passes with a field cultivator this spring. He planted soybeans on May 8 in 15-inch rows at 182,000 seeds per acre. He harvested them on October 10 at about 12% moisture. The variety was Pioneer 34T07RR2 with a 3.4 maturity and the seed was treated. The field that produced the 100-bushel yield was in corn the previous three years, and the 2014 crop was only the second bean crop in 15 years.

As part of their foundation agronomy, the team put together a fertilizer plan that started last fall, used split applications and spoon fed the plants over the summer. Callan stated their fertility goal is a soil test of 50 lbs. of P per acre and 325 to 360 lbs. of K per acre. “Soils test levels ranged from 18 to 26 lbs. of P per acre and 250 to 260 lbs. of K per acre. The high applications of P and K we normally apply are part of our building program. We have made great gains in building soil test levels and will be building a smaller portion of the farm as we go forward utilizing variable rate application.”

Last fall Callan had Arkels apply 250 lbs. of DAP (diammonium phosphate), 250 lbs. of potash and 50 lbs. of AMS (ammonium sulfate) per acre. In the spring Arkels applied 100 lbs. of MicroEssentials SZ (12-40-0-10S-1Zn), 200 lbs. of potash, 100 lbs. of AMS and 300 lbs. of SuperCal 98 lime along with a dry micronutrient package from Wolf Trax.

Nitrogen was also an important component of the fertility program. Arkels applied AMS (21-0-0-24S) in the fall and again in the spring, and the added nitrogen and sulfate contributed to the next soybean crop. Arkel’s recognized that you can’t produce 100-bushel beans on what the plant fixes and the soil provides. Callan added, “The addition of 100 pounds of AMS preplant related to a couple of sources that estimated a sulfur need for our yield goal to be approximately 30 pounds per acre. I like the availability AMS provides, as well as the quick shot of N early.”

Before planting they applied another 10 gallons of UAN32 (35 lbs. N) with Verdict herbicide. Callan said beans are nutrient challenged and need a lot more nitrogen than growers think. While they applied about 125 lbs. preplant and another 10 to 12 lbs. through foliar, he believes that if they top-dressed another 30 to 40 lbs. of urea per acre they would have picked up another five bushels.

The team used advanced technology including seed treatments, growth stimulants, nutrient package, fungicide and insecticide. Seed was treated with Pioneer’s Premium Seed Treatment (PPST) combination package along with BioForge™ ST from Stoller. George Lukach with the Lukach Pioneer Seed Agency said the seed treatment included Evergol® Energy and Allegiance® fungicides and Gaucho® insecticide. “Evergol is an exclusive fungicide to Pioneer and our PPST system. And Pioneer’s exclusive biological components and Pioneer’s 120+ inoculant also were part of the mix with our colorant to promote faster emergence, growth and nitrogen fixation.

Stork explained that BioForge ST provides early season vigor, promotes earlier N fixation and stimulates more nodes and branching. More nodes and branches mean more pod sites.

The postemergence program was comprehensive and required five trips across the field and complemented the soil-applied fertility program.

  1. When beans were 6- to 8-inches tall and sprayed with glyphosate, they also were treated with insecticide, BioForge, Stimulate® and HarvestMax™ (8% N, 3% S, 1% Fe, 2.5% Mn, and 2.5% Zn).
  2. Two weeks later the field was sprayed with glyphosate and Cadet®, BioForage and HarvestMax
  3. At R1.5 to R2 the field was sprayed with BioForge, Stimulate and HarvestMax
  4. At late R3 the field was sprayed with Priaxor® fungicide, Sable® foliar N (28-0-0), CropKarb (8-0-18), and Nutri K (0-0-28)
  5. Late R3 + three weeks the field was sprayed with BioForge, Sable foliar N, Harvest Max and Nutri K®

Stork said, “The application of BioForge, Stimulate and nutrient packages during vegetative growth will push a plant’s genetic yield potential, stimulating greater tap and lateral root growth and adding more nodules.”

When it turned dry in July the plant wanted to shut down and quit growing (recall that is what soybean did in 2012—they shut down and survived while corn died). Stork said that the second and third foliar passes were critical. “The two foliar passes made in July caused the plant’s growth to explode and we continued to see vegetative and reproductive development. Our goal was to keep the plant producing energy during July when it was dry. Coming out of July and into early August, we had massive leaves at the top of the plant.”

Arkels pointed out that rain resumed on August 5, with 0.75 inches. We would normally expect that soybeans would naturally finish with a great run when the rains returned. However, Stork pointed out that rainy weather meant cloudy conditions, and again the plants begin to pull back. “The fifth pass brought a massive flush of flowers all along the stem from six inches up to the top and stocked up the nutrients in the big leaves. And with these big leaves that served as a refrigerator of nutrients, we were able to save 25% to 35% of the late flowers and fill out three-bean pods.”

What will they do differently next year? Callan said they need to topdress on another 30 to 40 lbs. of N per acre. Stork believes there was a lack of calcium and that a foliar application may help. Lastly, plants were 4.5-feet tall and ranked with some lodging, and that needs attention.

And what can other Illinois producers do? Callan recommends applying a foliar whenever you cross the field. “Be willing to put on a product. Be willing to experiment a little and try new things.”

Stork adds that he encourages all soybean growers to get into their fields and monitor their crops on a regular basis. “There is no cost to this and the ROI from simply being in the field at critical times and being willing to address factors when needed, will increase soybean yield and keep the state of Illinois #1 in soybean production.”

BioForge ST, BioForge and Stimulate are trademarks of Stoller USA.
HarvestMax is a trademark of GRAINCO FS
CropKarb and Nutri K are trademarks of Delta Ag Formulations
Sable is a trademark of Rosens, Inc.
Cadet is a trademark of FMC Corporation
Priaxor is a trademark of BASF SE
Evergol and Gaucho are trademarks of Bayer Aktiengesellschaft
Allegiance is a trademark of Bayer CropScience

Agronomist Dr. Daniel Davidson posts blogs on agronomy-related topics. Feel free to contact him at

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About the Author: Dan Davidson

Soybean agronomist Daniel Davidson, Ph.D., posts blogs on topics related to soybean agronomy. Feel free to contact him at or ring him at 402-649-5919.