It has often been said that “if you are not moving forward, you are falling behind.” One of the unique ways that soybean farmers in Southern Illinois have been moving forward and thinking differently is in soybean maturity. Twenty-five years ago, it was common to see a lot of Group 5 maturity beans. Today, the trend is shifting to earlier maturities, all the way into the Group 2 maturities. There are a few key reasons this shift is taking place and why it is working.
- Industry changes/focus in plant breeding that has allowed genetics to be pushed outside the normal areas of adaptability.
- As farm size has increased, farmers have looked for ways to spread out their harvest windows.
- Early adopters and industry research have paved the way for helpful management suggestions to make these maturities successful.
Over the past six to eight years, the planted acres of these early beans have increased significantly. Not only have the acres increased, but in some years, these early beans are outyielding the standard Group 4 beans.
Several years of research and field trials have established three “must do’s” for successful Group 2 beans in Southern Illinois.
- Plant early. For most of Southern Illinois this would mean having them in the ground before the first week of May.
- Maintain higher planting populations. The range of 170,000 to 190,000 is working well.
- Plant on well drained soils. Poorly drained soils will add stress and reduce early plant growth/health.
As with anything in farming, there are risks and rewards with making such a change.
- Planting date. If the weather doesn’t cooperate and there is not an April planting window, the Group 2’s may need to be switched to a longer maturity. A Group 2 bean planted late, because of the daylight sensitivity, will not get enough vegetative growth before it switches to reproductive growth.
- Be ready to harvest early. Beans mature very quickly in August when it is hot. Shattering can be an issue if harvest is not timely.
- Harvesting beans in August is different than October. The “green” in the stems and any weeds, does not go away very quickly.
- Not all Group 2 varieties will move into deep Southern Illinois. Do your research to figure out which varieties work.
- Early harvest. Typically, these beans will be ready to cut in August, significantly spreading out the harvest window for most operations.
- Opportunity to capture an early price advantage at the elevators.
- Allows for very timely seeding of fall crops such as wheat or cover crops.
- Allows time for any field maintenance such as waterways, terraces or tiling.
- Can maintain farm level yield averages and in some cases increase the farm average.
- Spreads weather risks as it relates to varying the timing needs of crucial reproductive growth stage rainfall.
Walk slowly before making a huge switch on your farm. Try a field or two first, then increase your acres as you figure out how to make it work for your operation. With a little planning, research, and a few conversations with some experienced neighbors, you, too, can make Group 2 beans successful on your farm in Southern Illinois.