Well, most soybean fields have been harvested and it probably felt good to combine that last acre for the season. But your work isn’t over yet. As harvest ends and fall work slows down, take the time to evaluate how soybeans did overall and in individual fields. And do this before making your final soybean variety placement decisions for next season.
Mastering soybean production to produce consistently high yields is about understanding limitations, fine-tuning management and adopting the newest proven practices. And soybeans do respond to management just like corn, but it are more fickle and you need to pay close attention to the details. With soybeans you need to identify limiting factors and learn to optimize every production factor on every field planted to soybeans. And some limiting factors aren’t easily recognizable if you don’t walk fields.
Assessing crop performance begins with scouting fields. No one likes to scout soybeans. It is hard work and how do you personally visit every acre multiple times throughout the season? Deploying a drone would help as it looks down from above and can direct you to scout hot spots during the season. Or you can pinpoint low yield spots on a yield map and visit later to assess potential soil issues.
Not surprisingly, weather was again a deciding factor in 2018. A cold April, followed by a warm May and wet June, did have an impact on the soybeans. And in parts of the state some soybeans received more than ample moisture all summer, while other parts were on the dry side during pod fill. When it comes to soybean production, weather is always a big influencer and uncontrollable. The impact of weather can negate the performance of a practice in any given year.
Soybean Season Audit:
  • Did soybeans get off to a good start?
  • Did you plant on time?
  • Was your row spacing and population right?
  • Did you use the right seed treatments?
  • Was the field weed-free or too wet at planting or emergence?
  • Did you see signs of seedling blight or insect feeding?
  • How was stand establishment and did you reach your target population?
Once the crop was well established and closed over the row, how was your weed control? Did the residual herbicide provide enough control? If you sprayed a dicamba product post was it effective? Were there weed escapes? And ask yourself what your driver weeds are?
How did your foliar application program work out? Did your insecticide or fungicide treatment work and was it worth the investment? If you applied a foliar nutritional did it help keep the plant growing? With the pressure on soybean prices and the need to shave costs, can you eliminate foliar applications or are they a must?
Take time to assess yield maps and aerial images. Yield monitors are good tools for monitoring yield and moisture during harvest. In addition, the maps they create contain a wealth of information about the field and how management practices worked. Aerial or satellite images reveal similar information, but instead of yield they show where stress occurred. And today you can deploy drones up close and personal to focus in on stress areas and look at the symptoms more closely.
When assessing your crop, look at performance in terms of three areas:
  • How did your initial production plan perform and does anything need tweaking?
  • What factors might have limited growth and yield through the season?
  • How did any add-on agronomy practices or products perform?
Use this information and what you learned from this season to develop a record-breaking plan for 2019.
Soybean agronomist Daniel Davidson, Ph.D., posts blogs on agronomy-related topics. Feel free to contact him at djdavidson@agwrite.com or ring him at 402-649-5919. 

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About the Author: Dan Davidson

Soybean agronomist Daniel Davidson, Ph.D., posts blogs on topics related to soybean agronomy. Feel free to contact him at djdavidson@agwrite.com or ring him at 402-649-5919.