Recently, Illinois Field & Bean Magazine sat down with the 2023 Soy Envoys to ask about their three top tips for growers this season. Here’s what they had to say.

Karen Corrigan, Co-Owner, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics, CCA
Tip 1: The most important tip I can give to a farmer is to SCOUT! Then scout some more. Identify the most common weeds in each field so that you can customize your herbicide program to control those weeds. Change your program as needed for each field. Don’t assume your weeds are the same in every field, particularly if you farm across any distance. Identify insects and life cycle stage to determine if an insecticide is warranted. Is the population at a threshold that should be controlled? Are the growing conditions ideal or somewhat stressful to the crop? Answer these questions before automatically using an insecticide. What diseases are present in the field? Can those diseases be controlled by a fungicide? If not, don’t incur the expense.

Tip 2: READ ALL THE LABELS! I repeat, read all the labels of the products you are applying to your fields. Look for disclaimers for specific environmental conditions. Check the rates for your field soils to determine the most appropriate rate. Monitor the fields after application to determine if the application was sufficient or if a second application may be warranted.

Tip 3: If you are looking at new products, leave an untreated check strip. If you do not leave an untreated check, you cannot determine if the product impacted your yield and ultimately your profit. Test products in fields that are in good conditions and fields that may be in a tougher state. Do not assume if the product works on one field that it will positively impact all your fields – confirm it.

Kris Ehler, Sales Agronomist/President, Ehler Brothers Co., CCA
Tip 1: Planting population is worth revisiting every year based off planting date and variety. Making population decisions should include the architecture of the plant. Soybeans can be thin line, intermediate or bush/branching. Advanced Agrilytics uses a VPI or Variety Profile Index to classify each variety. Planting earlier offers opportunities to lower populations but lowering populations too low leaves a paper-thin margin for error. Scripts are ideal (in my opinion) as they take into consideration soil type, fertility and variety characteristics. Late planting requires slightly higher populations to offset lost potential in overall nodes.

Tip 2: In season management should be considered. Monitoring disease pressure and insect pressure as the plant enters reproductive phases will allow for timely applications of a fungicide and insecticide that can rob the plant of photosynthetic capacity, nutrients and cause yield loss. Applications at R2 or R3 have proven to give very good ROI when disease and insects are present.

Tip 3: Often overlooked is timely harvest. Soybeans can dry down rapidly during the fall. As soybeans dip below 13% growers give up 1.14% of yield for every 1% of moisture below 13%. For a field that’s yielding 70 bushels/acre at 13% moisture, harvesting it at 9% results in selling 3.1 fewer bushels/acre. In the current markets, that would be about $45 acre in loss. Growers should begin harvest at 14-15% and monitor the forecasts for rain events to put moisture back into the pods. This does not account for shatter that often occurs at lower moistures as well. Four to five beans on the ground per square foot can add up to one bushel per acre loss.

Matt Herman, Account Manager (DSM), Burrus Seed Company, CCA
Tip 1: Plant beans as early as possible. Planting soybeans early is a critical component when striving for high yields. By planting beans early, this allows for the plant to capture maximum amounts of sunlight which intern help produce more nodes. More nodes per plant equals more pods per node which equals more yield. When planting early beans, consider lowering populations to promote lateral branching. It is important to know and understand which varieties can adapt to lower populations and will promote branching to compensate. In my opinion, shorter statured and wider canopy beans are preferred for this type of management approach.

Tip 2: Protect your seed investment with fungicide. Fungicide treatments have been taking place for many years, yet there are still several growers who have not adopted this practice into their management system. Some growers have the mindset that it will take x number of bushels to break even from making the investment of the fungicide. As an example, if fungicide costs $30.00 per acre for the product and application with a current soybean price of $14.22 per bushel then it will take 2.1 extra bushels to break even on that application. Although that is true, I encourage growers to think of it from a different perspective. Think of fungicide applications in any crop as a way protect the yield potential that is already there, rather than adding bushels. When making applications of fungicide it is important to know which growth stage the crop should be in. Fungicide should be applied to soybeans in the R3 growth stage to maximize return on investment. A soybean plant is at the R3 growth stage when there is a pod at least 3/16 inch long (but less than 3/4 inch long) at one of the four uppermost nodes on the main stem with a fully developed leaf.

Tip 3: Micronutrients can lead to macro results. Companies across the nation continuously research and develop new products to aid in foliar nutrition. Many of these products contain micro or macro nutrient packages that can aid in nutrient flow, root and or plant development, as well as reproduction aids. Three key nutrients that I find important in soybean production are boron, sulfur, and calcium. Like all nutrients, there are sometimes hundreds of different formulations of these nutrients, and it is best to research and understand which formulations are easily absorbed and translocated throughout the plant. Boron for example is a large molecule and can be hard for the plant to absorb, but when applied with a superior penetrant product, it can become very affective. Boron is a critical component in reproductive growth stages of all plants. It aids in pollination and seed or fruit production. It is also responsible for the movement of sugars and carbohydrates throughout plants. Secondly, calcium stimulates root, stem, and leaf formations which help create a bigger factory to absorb more nutrients. Calcium also promotes greater amounts of fruit development and is required by the nitrogen fixing bacteria that soybeans utilize. Lastly, the macronutrient of sulfur is a nutrient that is widely underapplied in many crops. Sulfur is used by legumes to aid in seed production as well as nodule formation. Soybeans as well as many other crops can be significantly stunted in growth when planted into cool, wet soils. As many growers start to plant soybeans earlier and earlier, the addition of sulfur can increase root and early plant vigor when struggling to emerge in these conditions.

Kelly Robertson, Owner, Precision Crop Services LLC, Lead Agronomist, CCA
Tip 1: Plant your beans 1.5 inches deep. Beans planted at 1.5 emerge more evenly and faster than those planted shallower. Placing that bean at that depth against undisturbed soil gives the bean something to “push against.” And studies show that planting beans 1.5-2 inches deep in soil in some zones results in higher yields. If you’re scared that they won’t come up or that they will get crusted in, you shouldn’t be planting anyway.

Tip 2: A rotary hoe is a management tool, not a sign of failure. If you did everything right prior to and up to planting the crop, and now because of a change in weather you get crusting or need to hoe to help emergence, you didn’t fail. A rotary hoe is no different than any other implement tool on the farm. It has a purpose and a time and place for its use. The most important thing to remember about a rotary hoe is this: If you think you might need to hoe, you should already be running the tool. Usually when one decides they need to run it, it’s almost too late.

Tip 3: Soybeans are not scavengers, despite what many claim. If you want to grow big bean yields, you have to feed the crop. You “can’t starve a profit out of a pig” and you can’t expect big bean yields without feeding the crop. Fertilize high-yield beans like you fertilize high-yield corn.  Potash and sulfur are the two main ingredients to high yields. High-bean yields without fertilizing K and S is just pure luck.

Leonardo Rocha, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Southern Illinois University
Tip 1: Remember to use fungicides with multiple modes of action to manage frogeye leaf spot, as resistant isolates of the FLS causal pathogen have been identified in Illinois since the early 2010s. These isolates have levels of resistance to QoI fungicides. Implementing multiple fungicide modes of action will provide better FLS management and help maintain the limited modes of action available to control soybean fungal diseases.

Tip 2: The soybean cyst nematode can cause significant yield losses without showing apparent symptoms. As your beans move into vegetative growth, dig some plants (dig, don’t pull), inspect the root system, and look for SCN cysts. The SCN Coalition ( has educational resources to help you manage SCN. Consider testing your fields to get a better picture of what SCN population levels may be present on your farm.

Tip 3: Keep an eye on red crown rot towards the later growth stages of soybean, usually after flowering. The foliar symptoms are characterized by interveinal chlorosis (very similar to sudden death syndrome); if the soil moisture is high, the fungus will produce red round reproductive structures in the lower stem and roots. This disease was first identified in Illinois in 2017 and is now reported in several Central Illinois counties.

Crystal Williams, Field Agronomist, Pioneer Seed – CORTEVA Agriscience, CCA
Tip 1: Spray weeds early and layer modes of action. Make sure to “calibrate your ruler” and spray weeds within the label’s sizing, which is usually 4 inches or less.  If you think weeds are “small enough,” then you’re probably too late. With soybean technologies available today, we can layer modes of action and ensure the tools we have today will still be effective in years to come.

Tip 2: Don’t skimp on investing in a good quality, broad spectrum fungicide.  As budgets get tight in season, we can look around and think, “Do I really need this?”, “A generic will do the job,” or “I don’t see that much disease to justify this.” While our industry has plenty of options available, not all are created equal. I cannot stress this enough: check your percent active ingredients in your generics versus branded products as well as the labeled disease spectrum.  Additionally, make sure you use a product that will provide protection across multiple pathogens instead of putting all of your “eggs in one basket” with a selective and limited fungicide.

Tip 3: With a mild winter, pest management may be a larger challenge this year than we’ve had in years past. Be sure to get out and scout your fields for insects like bean leaf beetle and stink bugs. Consider budgeting for an insecticide this summer when your fields are being sprayed.  Just because they haven’t been an issue last year or the year before doesn’t mean they won’t be this year!

Visit and follow along this growing season as this team of experts shares their experiences, their farm management advice, and everything they learn along the way. And on behalf of the Soy Envoys:

“Be safe this season; we hope your operation reaches new milestones in 2023!”

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About the Author: Stephanie Porter

As Outreach Agronomist for the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA), Stephanie supports research efforts and helps communicate both in-field and edge-of-field research and validation studies to Illinois 43,000 soybean farmers. She also helps lead the demonstration and adoption of conservation agriculture practices and raises awareness of best management and continuous improvement practices for conservation agriculture in Illinois. Stephanie has 23 years of experience that consists of agronomy, conservation, horticulture, plant diagnostics, and education. She has her bachelor’s in crop science and master’s in plant pathology from the University of Illinois. Stephanie is a Certified Crop Advisor and was named the 2018 Illinois Certified Crop Adviser Master Soybean Advisor. She also has experience with corn and soybean pathology research, crop scouting, soil testing, as well as crop consulting. Previously, she utilized her diagnostic training and collaborated with University of Illinois departmental Extension Specialists to diagnose plant health problems and prepare written responses describing the diagnosis and management recommendations as the University of Illinois Plant Clinic.

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