How much attention do you pay to producing soybeans on your farm each season? Do you have a plan that you follow to make sure you have optimized your soybean production practices? Or do you just repeat what you did last year?

Planning soybean production for 2014 begins with identifying the basic agronomy practices you want to follow. Some of those will be the same as previous years while others should be different.  Most agronomists agree that before you stack together a lot of technologies you need to make sure your underlying agronomic foundation is right. If your foundation agronomy program isn’t optimal and doesn’t address all the underlying basic production factors, how can you expect to get the best return that comes with adding on more technology?

Improving soybean production requires a systematic approach to the whole process, ranging from fertility to variety selection,  soil preparation to planting, weed management to disease and insect control. This is your foundation agronomy. Strive to optimize all these factors, removing any limiting factors you have identified. Set up a production system that enables the crop can take advantage of its environment.

Reaching your yield goals begins with assessing your practices and limiting factors. Are your basic production factors measuring up to the most recent recommendations? What are the three most limiting factors that might be restricting yield? Reaching your yield goal comes in three challenges: selecting a variety with good yield potential and defensive package for each field; adopting an agronomy program that overcomes any limiting factors and optimizes production conditions; and incorporating technologies that address specific needs or limitations (such as seed treatments, starter fertilizer, growth regulators, insecticides, fungicides and foliar nutrients).

The basic agronomic factors to evaluate and optimize include:

  • The physical aspects of the soil to improve soil tilth
  • The biological aspects of the soil to improve soil structure and nutrient recycling
  • Available phosphorus and potassium levels sufficient to reach set yield goals
  • Monitor soil pH and make sure it is near 6.5 to 7.0
  • Plant in the right soil conditions and soil temperatures
  • Plant early at the optimal depth
  • Optimize row spacing and plant population
  • Managed weed early and completely

Keep an eye out of insect infestations and disease

Learn more managing your soybean crop strategically with the Illinois Soybean Production Guide. (Available here under Management Guides.) It provides guidance on bringing together basic practices and advanced technologies to improve soybean yields on your farm.

Dr. Daniel Davidson, agronomist posts blogs on agronomy related topics. 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.