Preparing for the next growing season begins far before a seed is put into the ground. Farmers must be vigilant in understanding the needs for their soil.

Not only a Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) but also CCA Soy Envoy, Jason Boehler is passionate about conversing with farmers about plans for the future. As he works to ensure that producers are ready to tackle the year ahead, he shares considerations a CCA will tell you for spring 2021.

1. Soil Testing and a Good Fertility Plan

There are many aspects that are included in a successful fertility plan and 2021 is no exception. Planning will help improve crop yields, ensuring better future crops. Looking to the adequate maintenance build is important to guarantee poor soil tests do not rob bushels of yield. The key of having proper pH levels is more important for soybean than corn. Rhizobium which colonizes root systems, is more efficient at fixating nitrogen for the soybean plants at neutral pH than acidic pH. Boehler is a believer in sulfur as it is a macronutrient which has economical yield gain.

2. When Soil is Fit, Plant Early for Better Soybeans

Knowing when to plant is an important aspect to concentrate on. Boehler emphasizes the earlier a farmer can plant their soybeans, the better. As soon as the ground is fit and there is lower risk of frost, soybeans can be planted. The ideal soil temperature for rapid soybean germination and emergence is between 77° and 86°F. Soybean seeds can germinate when the soil temperature is around 50°F. A soybean plant will leave vegetative phase and enter reproductive phase based on a set length of the night. The only way to extend vegetative growth is to plant earlier.  Planting early allows for a longer growing season and extending the life of the plants. Do understand that planting earlier opens the door to more disease and longer germination periods in cooler soils but having a good seed treatment can mitigate these risks.

3. Safeguard a Good Strategy to Manage and Control Weeds

Controlling weeds is crucial to having quality yields.  Using a good herbicide program will allow soybeans to grow and thrive. Controlling weeds all season long lays the groundwork for better yields and healthier plants. A key strategy is layering residuals. Especially when planted early, preemergence herbicides run out of residual by the time the crop nears canopy, which allows weeds to grow. By layering residuals, a plant is protected and able to grow without the risk of weeds controlling the crop.

4. Make Sure to Plant an Appropriate Population for the Time of the Year

The time of the year and emergence conditions will dictate the appropriate population to plant.    If a farmer were to plant in late March or early April in cold temperatures, there is a higher chance of having less emergence, even with a good seed treatment. During this time, plant a normal population.  During the second half of April, with good emergence conditions, thin the populations planted as the plant emergence percentage is higher. With higher emergence rates and more vegetative growth comes a higher chance of plant competition. A farmer does not want their soybeans competing with one another to the point they are tall and lazy, causing problems for the farmer as the season progresses.  Planting later, Boehler suggests having a higher population again to capture all of the sunlight a farmer can for the shorter growing season.  This causes a bell curve for the growing population season. Take advantage of the sunlight and warmth of each year to maximize yield potential.

5. Consider Your Harvest Strategy Planning for the Next Year

Look to your harvest strategy when you are planning for the next year. Make sure to avoid yield robbers with over dry or over ripe beans. With the goal of having 13 percent moisture per bushel at sale, it is not uncommon to be off the mark. If all of your beans are ready at the same time for harvest, it is not uncommon to get them at 9 percent moisture by the end of harvest, giving up 4 percent revenue in water weight, and an additional 2 to 3 percent increase in shatter loss. This is a big number with a 7 percent loss in revenue. Boehler emphasizes that staggering planting maturities will help diminish this loss to increase revenue.

Jason Boehler was raised in Litchfield, Illinois. He is a seed specialist at M&M Service Co. where he manages the seed department working with key growers and is a Certified Crop Advisor while also serving as a CCA Soy Envoy. Boehler farms soybeans and corn with his father. 

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About the Author: Jill Parrent

Jill Parrent is the Communications Coordinator for the Illinois Soybean Association. Parrent is a graduate from Iowa State University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Agricultural Communications with minors in Food and Society and Leadership Studies. Parrent has been heavily involved with professional organizations throughout her collegiate career including serving as Chair of the College of Agricultural and Life Science Ambassadors at Iowa State University, Sigma Alpha Professional Sorority, and the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She has dedicated much of her time to the 4-H program serving on the local, state, and national levels providing guidance and knowledge to youth. She is originally from central Illinois and currently resides in Normal.