In modern production agriculture, research and trials have expanded beyond small strip trials and universities. Many producers are developing their own sophisticated, on-farm research. Technology has come a long way to help producers collect data from a yield monitor at the point of harvest and have the data wirelessly sent to a computer software system for processing. Many producers also partner with Certified Crop Advisers and agronomists to help set up trials and to understand the findings. It is important to take time to properly develop the layout of a trial in order to get the best data. Will your trial be a split planter over 2,500 acres, a 20-acre field or 500-foot strips of treatments that are or are not replicated? All of these details need to be considered.

Below are some concepts to consider when developing 2021 on-farm research studies:

Can I plant soybean at a reduced population and still get quality canopy closure and yields?

  • Set up replicated population strips ranging from 65,000-160,000. Having a range that is outside of what you would consider planting will help to better understand how aggressive changes can alter the plant development, potential issues, and ultimate yield.
  • It is important to replicate the population in different locations to help offset any environmental variables or any impact from equipment such as sprayers, etc. Remember, this information could alter how you make management decisions in the future so it is important to remove as many variables as you can.

Can I really get an additional 10-15 bu/ac by planting soybean early?

Don’t rely on third party data – test this concept on your own fields.  Planting early will vary across the state, however we do know that planting as early as the season will allow can help to establish the plant sooner, which can put a soybean in a better position to yield more. It’s important to note that just because you plant early does not mean there will not be other risks. If you are testing early plating concepts, be sure that you are using high end seed treatment packages, adjust population, and manage the bean plant throughout the season. We cannot just change one variable and expect an aggressive increase in yield.

Below is a chart of how to set up a potential planting date trial:

  • Select the desired planting dates by weeks (early-late).
  • Make developmental observation of the soybean plants and document on the below chart with the physical date of when you made the respective observation. It’s amazing what one can learn from a soybean plant when we start looking closer.
    • When did the cotyledons fully open?
    • When did the unifoliate fully open?
    • When did the plant enter R1 growth stage?
    • When did the plant enter R3 growth stage?
    • When did the plant enter full maturity?

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About the Author: Todd Steinacher

Steinacher is an ISA CCA Soy Envoy alum and currently supports ISA on agronomic content as well as serving as an Illinois CCA board member. He was recently awarded the 2020 IL CCA of the Year & the 2021 International CCA of the Year. He has over 15 years agronomic experience, currently working with AgriGold and GROWMARK previously. Steinacher has an associate degree from Lincoln Land Community College, a B.S. in agronomy and business from Western Illinois University and a master’s degree in crop science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.