Pay attention to the basics. That’s the advice Eddie Tackett, an Arkansas farmer who regularly grows 100 bushel-per-acre soybeans, shared recently with growers at the Illinois Soybean Summit.
Here’s a closer look at Tackett’s “witches brew”—or seven ingredients—for raising bin-busting yields on his farm:
#1: Good Soil. What’s good? It depends on what you’re trying to grow, says Tackett. Farmers who have farms without rich soils can increase their yields by a number of factors they can control. The field in which he raised 100+ bu/A is silt loam, with the following stats:
Phosphorus: 150 ppm
- Zinc: 12 ppm
- Boron: 0.5 ppm
- K potash: 300 ppm
- Calcium: 1,146 ppm
- Organic matter: 2.9%
#2: Seed selection. Tackett says many soybean farmers in Arkansas have switched to earlier maturing varieties. While early group V and VI beans were the standard in the 1980s and even into the 1990s, that is changing.
“Sixty percent of soybeans grown in Arkansas are group IV. Ten years ago, I would say, that number would have been 10 percent or less.”
Tackett purchases seeds that have been double-treated with a fungicide and insecticide, and credits yield increases to agronomists and seed breeders. In 1997 soybeans yielded 74 bu/A on the very same field that yielded 104 bu/A in 2013.
“The only main ingredient that really changed was the seed we used.”
#3: Weed Control. Palmer amaranth (often called pigweed) is an ongoing weed control
challenge and Tackett takes action with a proactive, planned approach.
“We have an uphill battle here. I’m hearing the same from every farmer I talk to throughout Arkansas,” said Tackett. “We have to alternate the different modes [of action] that we have to battle—in our area especially—the palmer and pigweed.”
He applies pre-emergent herbicides, and post-emergent if needed.
“We’re spraying post-emergent everywhere, it seems.”
#4 and #5: Insect and disease control. Tackett’s area struggles with frogeye, aerial blight and stinkbugs. He applies a fungicide and insecticide at R2, and then again at R6 to his “high-yielding” soybean acreage (at least 50 bu/A).
“Some people say you can get a yield bump [if you spray]. In my opinion, you’re not increasing your yields. You’re protecting your potential.”
#6: Soil fertility. Natural fertilizer, in the form of chicken or turkey litter, is both available and affordable in Tackett’s area. Soil pH is approximately 6.5 in this particular field, and he uses a combination of natural and commercial fertilizers.
According to Tackett, a ton of chicken litter contains 40 units of potash, 40 units of phosphorus and 40 units of nitrogen. These nutrients are not as readily available to the plant, he said. Tackett recommends two tons of poultry litter per acre.
“It all goes back to good soil.”
He credits his fields with good fertility and drainage. He also irrigates his beans, allowing him to eliminate water availability as a limiting factor.
#7: Good weather. “You can’t have any one of the seven ingredients suffer too much,” he says. “I don’t think we’re at the highest yields yet.”
Want to be rewarded for growing bin-busting soybeans? Registration is now open for ISA’s 2014 Yield Challenge. It’s also the second year of the “100 Bushel Challenge,” which rewards the contestant who reaches the highest number of bushels above the 100 bushel per acre mark with $5,000. Visit www.soyyieldchallenge.com.
Interested in learning more about Tackett’s 100 bushel beans? Read the full story at Illinois AgriNews, or view the 50-minute presentation here.