Scouting has become a historical activity in many areas and has been replaced with a drive-by at 15 MPH. Yes, if one can see green rows across the field it may seem as if the crop is developing nicely. However, as they say, the devil is in the details. So now that I have piqued your interest in wanting to go walk a soybean field, now what? Below are some items of what to look for and track.

1. Stand Establishment

  • Stand counts should be performed early in the crop’s life cycle to determine the need for replanting and/or “beefing” up the population. Yes, a soybean field can achieve high yields with a lower plant population, however, if there are large pockets where the stand is zero or very low, this can create issues later in the season for canopy closure and weed control.
  • Frost Damage: Illinois soybean producers have experienced frost events from central to northern Illinois. It’s important to evaluate these fields 3-4 days after the major issues to monitor the regrowth process or lack of regrowth. The growth stage and the severity of the frost event will influence survival rates. If your soybeans are recovering from an environmental stress, be sure not to apply anything over the top of them until they have time to recover. Now’s where it gets fun – if you did have beans that experienced frost injury and survived (you didn’t replant), go start looking at the new cotyledons (axillary buds) growth.
  • It seems like most of the service calls I get called out on typically align with a consistent planting date and a certain weather even that followed. With the aggressive swings in temperatures and moisture, many fields are experiencing effects from cold/wet soils.  It’s important to evaluate the health and quality of the seedling above and below the soil if it’s not fully established yet. Seek out a CCA to help determine if seedling are alive and viable.

2. Weed Pressure

  • It’s important to evaluate fields for how well a particular soybean residual is holding. In many cases, the selected product or rates can break too soon, allowing a strong flush of waterhemp and grass to compete with soybeans.
    • Make notes on what types of weeds you are seeing
    • Make notes on where you are seeing weeds (field edges, middle of field, lower areas)
    • Make notes on the practices you are or aren’t seeing issues (conventional till vs no-till)

3.  Field Drainage

  • With all of the heavy rain events from this past spring, make special notes of areas that need to be improved.
    • Are there field edges that need to have drain cut into it, to allow field surface water to move?
    • Are there dry dams and rise that were damaged or were holding the proper capacity?
  • Are there fields that should be considered for cover crops, wheat or pollinator set aside programs?
  • Now’s a great time to be marking this location with GPS coordinates and start building a plan.

4. Herbicide Damage

  • Even though a particular herbicide is labeled for soybean application, it doesn’t mean that it can’t have adverse effects on a soybean, especially if the soybeans are growing slow and struggling (compounding stresses).
  • Start looking around and playing CSI: Soybean Field
    • Is the damage only on certain leaves (old or new tri-foliate)?
    • Are there internal venial chloroses/necroses?
    • Is there a “draw string” effect on the mature tri-foliate?
  • If there’s a potential herbicide drift from across the road, start looking at weeds in the ditch on both sides of the road.
  • Start looking for patterns and remember that Mother Nature never creates a straight line – but man does.

4. Insect Feeding

  • When looking at soybean foliage, make observations if there is any feeding and remember that the type of feeding and the time of year will lead you to the insect you should be looking for.

 For example

  • Early in the season, you would not be looking for a Japanese Beetle.
  • If the feeding occurs across a leaf vine, we would not be looking for an insect with a piercing sucking mouth part (Stink Bug).

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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.