In 2014, Illinois farmers raised 547.7-million bushels of soybeans on 9.8-million harvested acres. The average yield was 56 bushels per acre. These yield gains were made possible thanks to ongoing research, new varieties and better overall management.

Each year, ISA invests checkoff dollars into basic and applied research designed to help farmers increase yields and profits. Recently this research has focused on pushing the upper boundaries of soybean management with a “kitchen sink” approach—seed treatments, extra nitrogen, micronutrients, foliar fungicides—really whatever you can throw at the crop. Many of these practices help improve yields, although not all the time or in every situation.

Sometimes these extra efforts are ineffective because more basic factors are limiting yield potential.

In mid March, ISA staff and directors met with industry and academic experts to discuss the challenges and opportunities for increasing soybean yields. The discussion, which covered a wide range of topics from basic research to on-farm trials to better ways to share information, will guide future checkoff efforts to help farmers grow better, more profitable soybeans.

One key takeaway was the need to pay attention to the basics and get them right on every acre. Here are a few questions every grower should consider as they plan for 2015:

  • Are you planting beans early, once soil temperatures are warm enough? (And have you considered buying a second planter to help accomplish this?)
  • Are you planting in narrow rows and striving for 100,000 to 120,000 plants per acre at harvest?
  • Is your soil pH where it should be?
  • Do you inoculate your beans?
  • Do you fertilize your soybeans rather than let them scavenge after your corn crop?
  • Are you doing regular soil tests and fertilizing with the right source and right rates at the right time in the right places?
  • Do you establish a good stand of beans?
  • Do you control weeds early to reduce competition?

A common belief is that soybeans (or corn or wheat or any crop) have the most yield potential when it’s in the bag. Everything we do throughout the season should be planned to protect that yield potential. Even the kitchen sink won’t help until we get the basics right on every acre.

Do you pay attention to all these basics before moving on to more advanced strategies? Did we miss any critical basics? Tell us in the comments below.

Share This Story