Photo – S. Weckel

As I write this, it is March 15th and 75 degrees, and the sun is shining with a nice breeze. I remember when the warm days in March were the first time you would see tractors and tillage equipment start to emerge from the shed after winter in preparation of spring planting. Today, some growers take the opportunity to head to the field and start planting soybeans. It has been proven by many industry specialists that planting soybeans early has its advantages; however, when is planting early, too early? Instead of thinking about early planting for yield, let’s look at the time it will take for soybeans to emerge.

In 2017, Kris Ehler, Sales Agronomist at Ehler Brothers Seed, had the opportunity to plant soybeans in February and March. These soybeans were in the soil for over 50 days before emerging. They endured weather conditions of snow and rain, freezing and wet soils, and frost. When planting this early, you must plan for your soybeans to avoid emergence until after the last frost date. For Champaign, Illinois, that date is right around April 20th. To help keep soybeans from emerging, you want to also increase your planting depth.  

It seems each year we are presented with opportunities to plant soybeans earlier and earlier. Kris Ehler recalls one of last year’s early planting opportunities. “In 2023, a warm 10-day window presented itself in very early April and some growers were off to the races. In instances like this, I recommend to growers to find the tail end of the warm windows to delay emergence and avoid frost potential. The first 2 days of that warm window had beans that were frosted and created replant scenarios. It’s truly risk versus reward but taking measures such as delaying planting for 2-3 days can help mitigate those risks.” 

In 2022, a lot of soybeans in East Central Illinois were planted in May. In the right planting window with adequate moisture and warm soils, they emerged from the ground in less than 5 days. While planting our soybean plot at Ehler Brothers Seed in 2022, the first variety we planted had already started to swell and absorb moisture by the time we finished planting the last variety. Our plot was up in 4 days.  

Take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead of you, but don’t just check the box and say you have planted your soybeans. Just because it is sunny and 75, does not mean you should plant. You are risking the month-long or even longer weather conditions that will affect the soybeans you’ve planted in the soil. Every day those soybeans lay in the ground, the greater risk they have to develop seedling diseases or insect damage that can lead to decreased populations.   

For me, when you plant corn or soybeans, the smaller number of days they are in the ground the better. Soybean can lay in the ground for several weeks, but if you don’t have to take the risk of a replant scenario, your soybeans will be off to a much better start with less time to emerge.    


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About the Author: Shelby Weckel

Shelby Weckel, originally from Urbana, IL, was raised on a corn and soybean farm, actively assisting her parents. She earned a degree in Ag Management from Illinois State University after completing an Associate Degree at Parkland College. Joining the Ehler Brothers Seed team in 2012, Shelby serves as a Sales Agronomist, where she not only excels in sales but also takes charge of organizing and tending to hybrid/variety plots while managing the warehouse. Passionate about connecting with growers in the field, Shelby values the opportunity to learn about their operations and hear their stories. Beyond her professional life, she indulges in wildlife photography during her spare time.

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