On February 1st a large crowd gathered at Hamilton’s in Jacksonville, Illinois, to learn how they could maximize yield and reach the full profitability of soybeans. The event was cosponsored by the Illinois Soybean Association and Burrus® Seed. Here is what they learned:

Feed the Bean

Soybean fertility is critical for achieving high-yielding soybeans and soybeans should not be left to scavenge from the corn crop. Having adequate pH (6.2 – 6.8) can help maximize nutrient availability. P and K levels should be maintained at proper soil test levels to achieve high-yielding soybeans. Soybean plants meet their nitrogen requirement by nitrogen fixation and the soil. At yields greater than 65 bu/A there may be a need for supplemental nitrogen, although yield response is often inconsistent. Sulfur applications have shown to have a more consistent yield increase although it may depend on soil test levels and plant uptake. Micronutrients show inconsistent yield increases. Overall, soybean fertility is needed as part of a system to increase soybean yields. Growers should consider running replicated tests on their own farm when applying some of these nutrients to get the best return on investment.

New Soybean Technologies: Cure or Curse?

There continue to be weed resistance disasters in soybeans, but many have learned that even with the new herbicide technologies, a pre followed by a post herbicide system, combined with crop rotation, can provide the most consistent weed control. This herbicide program should consist of multiple, effective sites of action, full label rates, and right timing (3 R’s of weed control) to slow the selection for resistant weed biotypes. Upon foreign approval, there will be multiple types of soybean technologies to choose from, but will off-target movement of dicamba remain an issue in 2018? A review of dicamba -tolerant soybean application requirements compared to other soybean technologies opened our eyes to the challenges of this soybean technology. Ultimately, growers will have many soybean technology choices in the future that all can offer high yields and effective weed management if used responsibly.

The Six Secrets of Soybean Success

Soybeans can be profitable, so we should now focus on soybean management to achieve higher yields. Dr. Below began his presentation by asking, “What is the world record soybean yield and what is the soybean yield gap? The answer is that the current U.S. average soybean yield is about 50 bu./A and the world record soybean yield was 171.8 bushels in 2016. Illinois’ record soybean yield was 108.3 bushels in 2015. Dr. Fred Below’s Six Secrets of Soybean Success are steps many farmers are taking on their own farms to help them achieve 100-bushel soybeans. Among these secrets were weather, fertility (phosphorus), foliar protection (fungicide/insecticide), narrow row spacing and seed treatment. But, we can’t forget that Mother Nature, drainage and weed control, as well as proper pH, are crucial for soybean production.

Lastly, two growers shared their soybean production experience and Stephanie Porter listed the Top 10 Reasons for Higher Soybean Yields in 2017.

Here is what some learned:

“Adding one more pod to each soybean plant, increases yield by 2 bushels per acre.” – Jeff Bixenman

“Fertility (especially phosphorus) ahead of soybeans and narrow rows are important factors for high yields.” – Donny Marnin, Burrus Account Manager

“Feed the bean; soybeans are not weeds, and 60% of the soybean yield comes from the middle of the soybean plant (nodes 7 – 13).” – Pete Gill

“Full season soybean maturity varieties for the area often gives the highest yields.” – Dick Burns, Burrus Account Manager

“I learned the benefits of planting early and using a full seed treatment (includes PS SDS). Growing soybeans is not like it used to be.” – Ed Stallman

“All soybean herbicide technologies will yield. You don’t have to plant a particular soybean herbicide technology to get a yield bump.” – John Howell, Burrus Account Manager

“Soybeans are sexy.” – Stephanie Porter, Burrus Sales Agronomist

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About the Author: Stephanie Porter

As Outreach Agronomist for the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA), Stephanie supports research efforts and helps communicate both in-field and edge-of-field research and validation studies to Illinois 43,000 soybean farmers. She also helps lead the demonstration and adoption of conservation agriculture practices and raises awareness of best management and continuous improvement practices for conservation agriculture in Illinois. Stephanie has 23 years of experience that consists of agronomy, conservation, horticulture, plant diagnostics, and education. She has her bachelor’s in crop science and master’s in plant pathology from the University of Illinois. Stephanie is a Certified Crop Advisor and was named the 2018 Illinois Certified Crop Adviser Master Soybean Advisor. She also has experience with corn and soybean pathology research, crop scouting, soil testing, as well as crop consulting. Previously, she utilized her diagnostic training and collaborated with University of Illinois departmental Extension Specialists to diagnose plant health problems and prepare written responses describing the diagnosis and management recommendations as the University of Illinois Plant Clinic.