As we look at the trials and tribulations of the 2024 planting season, it would be easy to say variability in many areas is a key term. When we look at this variability, I see planting dates as the most significant factor. While we saw many soybean fields planted early in that April 20th timeframe, we saw equally as many planted May 15th or even a little later than that. This spread has begged the question, “Should mid-May planted fields be managed like those planted in April?” My short answer to this is YES, but let’s talk more about why.

Over the last several years, multiple research projects have shown that early planting on soybeans is a key factor to top-end yields. While I completely agree with those findings, I also believe we are being a bit extreme in thinking that if we plant soybeans in May, we have little chance of success. Some of the best data that I have around this subject is through our Beck’s Practical Farm Research (PFR) locations. In 14 years of planting date trials, we only see a 5 percent reduction in yield when planting soybeans in early April compared to late May.

Bar Graph provided by Drew Beckman, Beck’s Hybrids

Now, is that 5 percent something we want to capture most years? Absolutely! Does that mean we stop managing a crop by not capturing that? Absolutely not.

When we think back to the 2023 growing season, we are reminded about what happens in August can be just as impactful to yields as what we do in May. This has already prompted the question around things such as fungicide applications.

In 2023, our PFR teams ran a multi-location trial comparing the response to fungicide applications by planting date. While I understand it is early in the year to begin talking about fungicide applications, I think growers need to keep their minds open to planning that application rather than being reactive later. In the first year of our study, we saw greater yield gains when we made that application on later planted soybeans than those planted early. Now this could easily change with additional years of testing, but it gives us something interesting to think about for 2024. With all of this in mind, my hope is that growers remain positive on the yield expectation on this crop. We still have a lot of growing season to go and we will need to remain fluid on management decisions going forward.

Chart provided by Drew Beckman, Beck’s Hybrids

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About the Author: Drew Beckman

Drew Beckman, currently the Northwestern Illinois Field Agronomist for Beck’s Hybrids, earned his bachelor's degree in Crop Sciences from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2014. Following his graduation, he spent three years in full retail agriculture and then six years in sales and field agronomy with a prominent seed dealership in LaSalle and nearby counties. About a year ago, Drew seized the opportunity to join Beck’s as a Field Agronomist, a move that brings him immense satisfaction. Drew takes pleasure in collaborating with growers, addressing a wide array of agronomic challenges, and providing valuable recommendations to keep them informed in the ever- evolving agricultural industry. Residing on his hobby farm near Streator with his wife and two daughters, Drew actively participates in the local volunteer fire department and contributes to his family's property management business. His expertise lies in herbicides and plant pathology, showcasing his commitment to advancing agricultural practices.

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