Our family grows soybeans in Washington County, Illinois, which is the top winter wheat producing county in the state. We take advantage of the southern Illinois geography raising both full-season seed soybeans and double-crop seed soybeans behind wheat.
And while we haven’t started harvesting either soybean crop yet, we already are making preparations to address challenges we could face in 2021. The decisions we make will all come down to one word—profitability. What can we do to improve the bottom line for the future?
The first potential challenge we continue to face is economics. Producing soybeans profitably has been a struggle for farmers the last few years. But with that said, it was certainly nice to see $10 soybeans for the first time in a long time during the last several weeks.
Our farm is addressing economic uncertainty by raising seed soybeans on contract. The premium we receive helps provide more income versus just raising commodity soybeans. We also recently invested in a new auger that helps cut down on splits and increases the premium we can get.
Weather and weeds are the other two primary challenges we have to tackle. My dad says that in his lifetime of farming, he has not seen water issues in our fields like he has seen the last five years. We have watched new gulleys develop in our fields following the big rain events we seem to get now. That means every year we are moving dirt to build berms and risers that will send the extra water underground and through drainage tile.
Weed challenges are mainly waterhemp challenges. Waterhemp seed spreads so easily that it isn’t just an “our farm” issue, it is a neighborhood issue. It will take a community approach to manage it. We planted Enlist E3® full-season seed soybeans this year and applied Liberty® and Enlist One® to manage waterhemp that escaped the soil residual herbicides. That combination did well.
We planted XtendFlex® double-crop seed soybeans and I am glad to see they have gotten approval for 2021. We had to use two passes of Liberty to control waterhemp in those soybeans. We did not spray any dicamba this year.
With the status of XtendiMax® unknown for next year, we may have to adjust our weed control plans. If a cutoff restriction is in place, it may be that we can’t use the herbicide on double-crop acres in 2021. The last date for use would likely come before we could spray late season.
As we wait to begin harvest, I really don’t have a good guess on soybean yields this year. It appears our full-season soybeans are loaded with pods and could be above average. Unfortunately, our double-crop beans did not get any moisture for about a month and a half during critical growth stages. I saw some flowers and pods abort, so those yields are probably going to take a hit.
We will continue to work with the technology that is approved, and even in cases where we may have limited options, we will adjust to meet the needs of the market.