In modern soybean production there are a lot of products and a lot of research being done to help improve growers’ yields and profitability. Yet, there is no way a farmer could utilize every single product on the market to improve yields. If they did, there would not be any room in the budget for profit.
That is why it is up to each farmer to conduct their own research to validate products that work, improve profits and have a high percentage of wins. When evaluating performance there are three types of yield: biological yield improvement, yield improvement and, most importantly, economic yield improvement. It’s important when evaluating these products to know how they work and how they protect yield.
When evaluating yield limiting factors it’s important to view things through the concepts we have all learned from Liebig’s Law of the Minimum, which states that growth is dictated not by total resources available, but by the scarcest resource. Even though Liebig’s Law was developed around plant nutrition, this concept can be applied to all factors that improve or protect top end yield.
As an example, a given product may have produced biological yield and yield improvements, but it was another resource that prevented economic yield improvement. This limiting resource could be a variable during the season, the field or even the amount of sunlight that a canopy had the opportunity to capture.
At the end of the day, it’s important to evaluate treatments and make all observations that you can. Even though we are in the world of digital tools that capture data and determine performance difference, there is no substitute for a quality scale or weigh wagon. If a farmer is considering implementing a new product or concept on their farm, it’s important to not put all your beans in one basket on a single treatment 500 ft. long. In any form of research, it’s vital to replicate results to offset for any variabilities in a field. Consider mutual treatments across several different fields, crop rotation, tillage, planting dates, populations and even different soybean varieties.
Types of Yield Improvements:
Biological Yield Improvement: 
  1. Produced a greener plant
  2. Produced bigger leaves
  3. Produced bigger root system
  4. Produced a bigger canopy
  5. Produced a taller plant
Yield Improvement:
  1. Produced more bushels per acre
  2. Did not produce enough bushels per acre to pay for treatment
Economic Yield Improvement:
  1. Produced more bushels per acre
  2. Produced enough bushels to pay for the treatment
  3. Produced enough bushels to provide a 5%, 10% or 35% Return on Investment (ROI)

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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.