The Brazilian yield contest winner routinely breaks 100 bushels per acre today. To reach the 100 bu/acre mark (6.725 t/ha or 112.1 bags/ha) requires strategy, with winners adopting some new practices each season. The following is a description of the practices they follow and what they have learned along the way.
I have underlined the novel things they have discovered that we should pay attention to including seed vigor, planting conditions, soil fertility below 1.3 feet and compaction. They already focus on planting the best genetics, managing stress and applying fungicides, insecticides, stimulants and nutrients on a routine basis. They are taking yields to the next level by focusing on the science of yield—but as in Illinois, weather has a big influence on final outcome.
Brazilians have their own yield challenge and nearly every summer the winners make a trip to Illinois to see soybean production first hand. While here they come to the Illinois Soybean Association to learn about soybean production in the state and hear from local Yield Challenge winners. I posted a blog on their visit back in 2014 (“100 Bags per Hectare”: Learning from Brazilian Soybean Growers). Unfortunately, they were not able to make the trip to Illinois this year, but the coordinators provided us with some valuable insight on the approaches they follow.
Following are farm practices of the Brazilian CESB 2015/2016 High Yield Contestants as reported by Henry Sako, Ag. Ing., CESB Technical Coordinator; Luis Antonio Silva, Ag. Ing., CESB Executive Director; Ernesto Akira Shiozaki, Ag. Ing, Esalq; and Claudio Purissimo, Ph.D., UEPG Professor Emeritus.
Genetics: Soybean cultivars adopted by the yield contest entrants are those commonly grown by all farmers. It means everybody has the same potential, but to reach those same high yields depends on how farmers deal with their environments.
Seed quality: High seed vigor and bigger seed size are important factors in getting the crop off to a good crop start. The greater the seed vigor, the higher the yield.
Figure 1. Impact of vigor on yield. Vertical axis – % Seed Vigor; horizontal axis – the five competing regions in the Yield Challenge; Northeast 4.9 t/ha or 82.0 bags/ha (73.2 bu/A), Irrigated 6.5 t/ha or 109.1 bags/ha (97.3 bu/A), Midwest 6.4 t/ha or 107.0 bags/ha (95.5 bu/A), South 6.8 t/ha or 114.0 bags/ha (101.7 bu/A), Southeast 7.2 t/ha or 120.0 bags/ha (107.1 bu/A); high yields correlate with = or >90% seed vigor.
Planting quality: Placing soybean seed precisely at recommended depth and spatially apart is just as important for soybeans as corn. With the kind of planters available to Brazilian farmers, planting speed creates doubles or skips in seed distribution. This affects how water and nutrient resources are used by the crop. During planting a half second travel means 3 feet are seeded; this small fraction of time will define the next 100 to 120 days of the soybean crop.
Figure 2. Plant distribution at João Dantas Farm, on the contest plot of the Top Southeast Winner of the 2014/2015 CESB Soybean High Yield National Contest.
Plant protection: Air temperature and relative humidity during the crop season can create highly favorable conditions for disease development and proliferation. Fungicide spraying starts at a vegetative stage, when disease pressure is still low, and continues through the season. Fungicide application has become a standard practice for Brazilian soybean farmers.
Figure 3. Soybean development stages and pesticide application schedule. Applications are applied beginning at V4/5 and end at R5.5.
Figure 4. Detailed product application plan including herbicides, insecticides, miticides, fungicides and surfactants, and application schedule by growth state.
Bio stimulants and foliar nutrition: Growth regulators and foliar nutrients are a common practice in Brazil, but there is not a single common thread on how these technologies are applied. Adoption of these practices is based on individual preferences and decisions.
Building up the fertility of the soil profile: Fertility below 1.3 feet is a major driver of high yield soybeans. Yields are correlated to the soil fertility below the 40 cm (1.3 foot) depth.
Figure 5. Soybean yield above 120 bags/ha (7.2 t/ha or 107 bu/A) correlates to soil base saturation. Vertical axis – base saturation %; horizontal axis – Yields 4.7 t/ha or 78 bags/ha (69.6 bu/A), 5.8 t/ha or 97 bags/ha (86.5 bu/A), 6.0 t/ha or 100 bags/ha (89.2 bu/A), 7.3 t/ha or 122 bags/ha (108.8 bu/A), 7.6 t/ha or 126 bags/ha (112.4 bu/A), 8.4 t/ha or 140 bags/ha (124.9 bu/A), 8.5 t/ha or 141,72 bags/ha (126.4 bu/A); Green bars – 60 to 90 cm soil depth (2 to 3 ft.), Red bars – 90 to 110 cm (3 to 3.6 ft.).
Compaction management. Have to monitor soil resistance to penetration or the presence of compaction. Oxygen supply and low soil resistance to penetration are essential to soybean root growth and yields of 6 t/ha (89.2 bu/A) or higher. The following chart shows the soil resistance to penetration measured in fields when soil is near field capacity at the competition plots of the CESB regional top yielders, as compared to other areas with similar yields. They are all below 1.5 Mpa.
Soil Cone Index at the competition plots of the 2015/2016 CESB regional top yielders compared to areasof the 2015/2016 Research Circuit. Green – Desirable – up to 1.0 Mpa; Yellow – Acceptable – from 1.0 up to 1.5 Mpa; Red – Critical – 1.5 Mpa and above. Soil resistance to penetration measured near soil field capacity. Members of the 2015/2016 Research Circuit: Ceres Consultoria, SNP Consultoria, Fundação Mato Grosso, Dantas Consultoria, UFMT, UFPR, ESALQ.
Figure 6. Horizontal: Soil Depth, from 10 cm (0.328 ft.) to 100 cm (1 meter or 3.28 ft.)
Vertical – Yields: Southeast, South, Northeast, Irrigated; 6.6 t/ha or 110.32 bags/ha (98.4 bu/A), 5.9 t/ha or 98.51 bags/ha (87.9 bu/A), 5.5 t/ha or 91.6 bags/ha (81.7 bu/A), 5.0 t/ha or 83.25 bags/ha (74.3 bu/A); 81.24 bags/ha (72.5 bu/A), 79.96 bags/ha (71.3 bu/A), 76.61 bags/ha (68.3 bu/A), 75.31 bags/ha (67.2 bu/A), 73.54 bags/ha (65.6 bu/A), 73.03 bags/ha (65.2 bu/A), 72.77 bags/ha (64.9 bu/A), 71.46 bags/ha (63.6 bu/A), 71.30 bags/ha (63.6 bu/A), 71.15 bags/ha (63.5 bu/A), 70.73 bags/ha (63.1 bu/A), 69.51 bags/ha (62 bu/A), 69.05 bags/ha (61.6 bu/A), 67.85 bags/ha (60.5 bu/A), 67.50 bags/ha (60.2 bu/A), 67.29 bags/ha (60 bu/A).
Competition plot history: The history and management of the fields are critical to success. Soils have been built up over crop seasons. Decisions include soil acidity, fertility corrections, adopting crop rotation and tillage practices. There is a trend to adopt no-till as a best management practice.
Figure 7. Chart with the crop practices chronology, where brown stands for conventional tillage and green for no-tillage. Southeast 7.2 t/ha or 120 bags/ha (107.1 bu/A), Midwest 6.4 t/ha or 107 bags/ha (95.5 bu/A), South 6.8 t/ha or 114 bags/ha (101.7 bu/A), Irrigated 6.5 t/ha or 109.1 bags/ha (97.3 bu/A), Northeast 4.9 t/ha or 82 bags/ha (73.2 bu/A); Source: 2016 Top Yielder Production Systems
Summary: The 2015/2016 crop season was marked by highly adverse weather with excess rainfall in the South and lack of rain in the production areas of Northeast States of Bahia, Piaui, Tocantins and Maranhão. Though stress was evident growers were still able to achieve high yields. The highest yields in each of the five districts in 2016 are as follows:
- Northeast 4.9 t/ha = 82.0 bags/ha = 73.2 bu/A
- Irrigated 6.5 t/ha = 109.1 bags/ha = 97.3 bu/A
- Midwest 6.4 t/ha = 107.0 bags/ha = 95.5 bu/A
- South 6.8 t/ha = 114.0 bags/ha = 101.7 bu/A
- Southeast 7.2 t/ha = 120.0 bags/ha = 107.1 bu/A
The high yields reached by the CESB winner contestants resulted from the interaction between a combination of short and long term field practices.
Agronomist Daniel Davidson, Ph.D., posts blogs on agronomy-related topics. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring him at 402-649-5919.