After the planter is parked for the season it is time to make observations of emerging and developing crop. Early scouting trips provide a look at how the crop begins the season and the potential for growth the remainder of the year. Soybeans seem to receive less attention after planting during early vegetative growth stages than corn but as more soybeans were planted this year and interest in increasing soybean yields is increasing, take time to assess fields.

Can’t emphasize enough the importance of walking the field. Don’t just look at headlands or walk in 100 feet. Get a drone (UAV) and fly to field to look for definite hot spots and the walk there and scout those spots.

A few tools to take to the soybean field include – a hula hoop with known diameter, a tape measure, a digging tool and a device to take pictures (smart phone works well).

Look for emergence issues. If there seems to be a repeatable pattern across the field it is probably caused by a planter malfunction. If the pattern is random, it was caused by the environment.

Taking stand counts in soybean fields is important to understand how seeding population and environmental conditions equate to emerged viable plants. As seeding rates have declined in recent seasons and germination percentages of seed stock varied in 2018, counting soybean plants is a good idea. To determine stand counts, use the hula hoop method or row width to figure the length of row to measure and count soybeans. Either method is acceptable and taking a few minutes before going to the field to calculate how far to walk or the hula hoop size will make the process faster and more accurate. Taking counts in multiple places is always recommended.

Past CCA Soy Envoy Adam Day tried out a phone app for calculating population from photographs taken in the field in his story, “There’s an App for That – Predicting Soybean Replant.

While taking stand counts pay attention to uniformity in stand. Though not as important as in corn, this can indicate planting issues or insect pest pressure. Dig any gaps in the stand to find why the soybean seed did not emerge. Also look for feeding or damage to the plants and any pests that are present. With most soybean seeds being treated with insecticide and fungicide prior to planting now is a good time to evaluate the effectiveness of these products.

Take pictures of anything in the field and record notes electronically for reference during the season or at harvest. An early season scouting trip will help identify any areas for change in future soybean seeding operations

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About the Author: Kelli Bassett

In South Central Illinois, Bassett and her family raise corn, soybeans, wheat and cattle. She is also a sales representative with Pioneer®. She has worked as an agronomist in Illinois with DuPont Pioneer and with University of Illinois as an Extension educator. Bassett serves on the Illinois CCA board and holds a B.S. and M.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in Crop Sciences. She enjoys working with growers to determine ways to improve crop productivity.