Last month I switched things up and posed this question to some of my customers (twice) with the general consensus that weed control is the #1 challenge when raising soybeans and then received a myriad of responses on the #2 challenge. Therefore, I am going to address some of these other challenges. They are in no particular order of importance.
“LibertyLink® is working well, but now crop injury from the PRE’s is an issue.”
I must admit, I do not get real excited when I see a little crop injury from a pre-emergence herbicide. The labels on most of these herbicides state that a crop response may occur. Yes, I have seen cases where it is severe, but they have revolved around soil fertility and/or weather-related interactions more so than just the herbicide alone.
I had an instance where metribuzin actually killed about 450 acres of double-crop soybeans at the V1-V2 stage. The producer applied metribuzin in his burndown tank mix after wheat harvest. The soybean death was due to excessively wet soil conditions that year and an interaction with high soil pH (pH >7.5). I also had about 600 acres of full-season soybeans that were damaged by a pre-emergent herbicide. The soybeans germinated and were pushing their way to the surface when we had a cool-down and rain. Instead of pushing through the surface soil quickly the soybean growth slowed and their “neck” was right at the soil surface in contact with the herbicide for too long, causing injury. This crop was slowed and stunted for a short period, but there were no ill effects on final yield.
We were spoiled for too long with glyphosate not showing any type of crop injury. We quickly forgot about the days of old when we sprayed a post product like Blazer®. It was always best to not go back and look at that field for at least three weeks. We also tend to tolerate crop injury from products like Cadet® and Cobra®, but here again these are post products and we are expecting injury.
We are just not used to seeing injury from pre-emerge products. Weed control in the future is going to be a real challenge and we will have to get used to seeing some crop injury early season. We are going to have to pay even closer attention to the herbicide labels and crop rotation restrictions so these potential problems can be avoided.
“Expensive seed costs.”
I’m not even sure how to address this subject without making at least one person or company mad. Do I think seed costs are too high? Yes. The seed cost has stayed relatively constant, but it’s the “technology” within that seed that keeps increasing. We do need this “technology” to battle weed resistance and to produce higher and higher yields to feed an increasing global population. Unfortunately, seed and other costs do not fluctuate (or attempt to fluctuate) as quickly as the commodity markets. I guess you could buy cheaper seed, but remember “You get what you pay for.” Another potential option for slightly cheaper seed is to purchase non-GMO seed without the technologies.
“Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN) and Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS)”
Combating SCN and SDS is best achieved through seed genetic selection. The biggest thing one can do to prevent SDS is to not plant too early into cool, wet soils. But this also has its downside. We want to plant earlier to maximize all of the sunlight possible to obtain the highest yield. There are products like ILeVO® that are showing promise for that earlier planting timing. Also look at historical problems. That way you can use a variety of management tools and treatment options to best reduce SDS problems.
With SCN there are a variety of options to look at to reduce yield losses. The first step is to take a soil sample and have a cyst count and an HG-Type test conducted. This way you know which HG-Type you are dealing with and can then select seed genetics that are best for that nematode type. Other options are using actual nematicides and biologicals. However, the biologicals have to have time to build up their populations in the soil to infect and kill the nematodes. I’ve seen cases where they do and do not work. Another option is the use of cover crops, annual ryegrass in particular. It has shown a dramatic decrease in nematode population in a single season. With the use of cover crops, you will also be facing a new set of management considerations to deal with and this option may not fit into every soybean production program.
“Breaking the 45 bu/acre yield barrier.”
I have several thoughts on why a field may or may not be breaking the 45 bu/acre yield barrier in Southern Illinois. Here are my thoughts on this and you are welcome to agree or disagree with them.
- Seed genetic package selection that ties in with your management program.
- Slightly earlier planting to maximize the growing season. This also ties in with #1.
- Good cultural and fertility management practices. Soybeans require soils with good fertility, especially potassium.
- Good weed control all season. This is the most difficult. I addressed this issue last month. This year I collected waterhemp plants from corn and soybean fields under average and high fertility management and analyzed them for nutrient content. These fields had average weed control. What I found to be the most interesting was the high amount of potassium (K) taken up by waterhemp. Waterhemp has a C-4 metabolic pathway just like corn. It is more highly efficient (5 – 10 times) than corn or soybean at extracting water or nutrients from the soil. The results on these analyses follow.
5. Utilize scouting and do your best to control/reduce insect and disease pressures. I am not a big advocate of applying an insecticide whenever you are making a trip across the field, but research several years ago done by Dr. Jason Bond out of Southern Illinois University showed there was an increase in yield in soybeans by using a fungicide and insecticide together versus either product alone.
6. Harvest in a timely manner to reduce in-field losses. Additionally, I have seen soybeans harvested at seed moistures of 9 – 11%. Soybeans are considered dry at 13% moisture. Harvesting at this lower moisture is actually taking away bushels when you go across the scale at the elevator. Remember, seed sold at the elevator is in bushels and seeds per pound has no bearing here.
“Machinery expenses to get everything done in a timely manner” and “Marketing, when it seems so easy to miss $2 – $3 per bushel.”
I do not have a good answer for these two questions. Unfortunately, machinery costs are much like seed, chemical and new car/truck prices. They go up every year no matter what the economy is doing and I don’t see that changing any time soon. As an example, I bought a new truck in 2012 that had several “bells and whistles” in the package. Then in 2015 I traded for a newer model with hardly any “bells and whistles”, but the same package. In three years, that truck price increased almost $10,000 for fewer options. As long as we keep paying these prices, they’ll keep charging more.
Marketing is never easy and I cannot tell you how to maximize your return on a bushel of grain sold. All of the middle men that do the trading are the only ones profiting from grain sales. I am still a firm believer in that “The Farmer is the only person who buys all of the necessary input products at Retail and sells all of their products at Wholesale.”