1. At the top of my list is seek out and test news ideas. Practices that other farmers are succeeding with is a good place to start. However, don’t be afraid to step out in front and be the first to try a new idea. New ideas can come from anywhere. I believe there are many things growers can do to increase yields by five bushels per acre. If your APH yield (actual production history) is 50 to 60 bushels, it is easy to do. If your yields are averaging nearer 80 bushels, increases will be a bit harder to realize.
Dr. Fred Below’s work at the University of Illinois showed us that adding one more pod on each plant can increase yield by 2 bushels per acre. His secrets to successful soybean production include:
- Weather: The number one influence on soybean yields, but beyond our control.
- Fertility: Proactive fertilization can boost yields over 60 bushels.
- Foliar protection: Fungicides and insecticides protect foliage and prevent yield loss.
- Genetics: The fullest maturities for the region produce the greatest yield increases.
- Row spacing: 15- or 20-inch rows increase yield and respond better to more intense management.
- Seed treatment: Early season protection protects yield potential.
2. Plant early: When it comes to soybeans you need as much calendar time as possible before summer solstice to set up as many nodes and branches as possible, because nodes (and branches with more nodes) bear pods, and more pods mean more seeds per acre.
3. Narrower row spacing: Over time, planting soybeans in narrower rows means more yield because you have more nodes and potential pods per acre, and more pods mean more seeds per acre.
4. Stimulating pod set and survival: Soybeans produce a lot of potential pods and abort over 50 percent of them, either at the flower or pod stage. Applying PGR (plant growth regulator) products either at V3 to V5 or at R1 or R3 will increase pod survival, and more pods mean more seeds per acre.
5. Foliar protection: Fungicides protect against foliar diseases, as well as improving plant’s health and ability to withstand stress. Insecticides ward off insects that feed on the foliage. Keeping the plant healthy and the leafy canopy fully viable will enable the plant to feed and keep more pods, and more pods mean more seeds per acre.
6. Foliar feeding: Plants get the bulk of their nutrients from the soil. However, a dash of nutrients applied with a herbicide or fungicide application can overcome short-term deficiencies and stimulate metabolism aboveground (think photosynthesis) and root activity below ground. And if yields are breaking 80 bushels it is time to think about adding a little nitrogen to the program. Foliar feeds can sustain the plant’s ability to keep more pods and, you guessed it, more pods mean more seeds per acre.