Spring is in full-swing and a lot of beans and few acres of corn are already in the ground here in Central Illinois. The weather has certainly thrown us a curveball this spring with cool, yet dry conditions. Although the cool weather has kept a lot of farmers parked, some took advantage of the dry conditions to plant early beans or work the kinks out of the planter.
Today, planters seem to be the most upgraded and rebuilt piece of equipment on many farms, thus the need to get those kinks out early in the spring. Corn planting is certainly the driving force behind a lot of these technologies and upgrades, but how can we put those planter upgrades to use for soybeans?
Electric Drives/Planting Prescriptions
Electric drives seem to be the first improvement that growers make to their planters. With installing electric drives on your planter comes the ability to do accurate planting prescriptions. Planting prescriptions are mainly implemented for corn; however, I believe they have their place in soybeans too. The benefits of planting prescriptions for soybeans may not come in the form of yield increases, but more from a cost saving standpoint.
For me, I think of soybean prescriptions very differently from how I think of corn prescriptions. Higher yielding areas in my field get lower populations, and lower yielding areas get higher populations. By lowering populations in high yield areas, we not only save ourselves money, but we allow each plant to maximize its potential by giving it more space to branch out and less competition for nutrients. This also helps us keep soybeans from growing too tall and lodging. Our lower yielding areas in the field are usually either drown out spots or clay nobs, both of which require higher populations. By increasing populations, we can either avoid replanting in drown out spots, thus saving time and money; or increase yield by increasing shading on clay nobs that can dry up fast and cost us bushels.
In-Furrow Fertilizer System
Chances are, if you have an in-furrow fertilizer system, you are using it to put starter fertilizer on for corn. However, if there is only one planter on your operation, usually that in-furrow system goes unused for soybeans. I know, soybeans can be boring to plant and you want to get them in the ground as fast as possible with nothing slowing you down. I get it, but if you already paid for the in-furrow system why not try something to help increase your soybean yields and help get a faster ROI on your system? My suggestion would be to try running a biological and fulvic acid with 3-4 gallons of water as a carrier. It is a cheaper solution than starter, and less gallons which means it won’t slow you down as much. The biological can help introduce more beneficial microbes into the soil to help make tied up nutrients more plant available, increase nodulation rates, and help stimulate early root growth. The fulvic acid acts as a food source for the microbes that you’re putting in and the ones that already exist in your soil. Do your research on finding the best biological though, they aren’t all created equal. Look for one that is proven over several years and provides several different species of microbes not just one or two.
Banded Fertilizer System
I would say 2×2 or 2×0 fertilizer systems are even more common now than in-furrow fertilizer systems. Growers like the idea of placing 10-20 gallons of nitrogen close to the corn plant for easily accessible for roots to take up. Just like that in-furrow system though, these banded fertilizer systems go largely unused for soybeans. Because of being 2 inches from the seed, you can have a lot of creativity with what you use your banded system for on soybeans. My first suggestion would be a micronutrient package. Unless you’ve already been actively watching your micronutrient levels and applying them, chances are you may have at least one or two micronutrient deficiencies. Secondly, try a plant available potassium fertilizer like KTS (potassium thiosulfate) at 5 gallons with 5 gallons of water. Soybeans love potassium and remove a lot of it from our soils. Putting potassium in an available form should help yield, and at the very least help offset some of the large removal rate that occurs when we harvest soybeans. The added benefit of KTS would be the sulfur component which many of our soils are now deficient in.
We spend a lot of money to upgrade our planters, why not try and get some of that money back faster and put those upgrades to use on soybeans too!
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