At Ag Progress Days 2014, the Management Tactics for High-yielding Soybeans Tour offered practical tips for soybean producers who were looking for advice. Hosted by Penn State’s Dr. Greg Roth and Ohio State’s Dr. Randall Reeder, attendees for the fifth and final session on Thursday came away with several key observations that could give profitable results next growing season.
Dr. Reeder discussed the use of gypsum as a soil amendment. He said this has become common practice in Ohio, especially in areas where soils need added sulfur and compaction tends to be a problem. The four demonstration plots behind him, however, did not seem to respond in any significant way. Three of the trial areas had gypsum applications at various levels, while the fourth served as a control, with no gypsum applied. He said based on his observations, Pennsylvania farmers would be better served if they considered planting a cover crop, like the oilseed radish, to improve soil conditions. Rotating their crop between corn and soybeans would increase production as well.
He said cover crops not only prevent soil erosion, but also provide a better “soil biology” that gives beans more available moisture and deeper rooting potential. He also said cover crops produced an increase of 3.6 bu/acre and that planting high oil soybeans versus low oil beans gave a production increase of over four bu/acre. Additionally, Dr. Reeder recommended no-till planting as a way to lower production costs.
Dr. Roth noted that 2014 has been a cooler than usual growing year in Pennsylvania, and the cooler temperatures has helped keep insect pest levels generally lower. He observed that soybean stands have been fuller, with bean production doing well because of the additional moisture that the wetter than average rainfall amounts have provided. He said yield potentials for Pennsylvania in 2014 are expected to average around 49 bu/acre, an increase of almost 50 percent over the past 20 years.
Roth listed 10 tips for producing top yields when growing soybeans, many of which require little or no additional expense to growers. These recommendations are encouraged by the Pennsylvania Soybean Board.
The recommendations include:
1. Monitor soil nutrients, especially soil pH and potassium levels. Inoculate seed before planting and use multiple inoculants on fields that have never had soybeans.
2. Grow adapted varieties that are top yielding and have appropriate disease resistance. Use seed treatments when appropriate.
3. Have a plan to control groundhogs and limit deer damage.
4. Plant early to mid-May. Monitor conditions to achieve good stands. A stand count should have a goal of 120,000 plants per acre.
5. Monitor weeds, especially those resistant to glyphosate. Vary the weed control products. Good early weed control is essential.
6. Monitor insects and diseases, and treat when threshold levels are attained. Learn to identify the problems and know what measures will control the problems.
7. Reduce or eliminate tillage to reduce erosion and improve soil organic matter.
8. Use cover crops where possible.
9. Harvest when soybeans are ready and monitor harvest losses. Four beans per sq. ft. equal one bu/acre.
10. Rotate with other crops to take advantage of the yield increases and nitrogen contribution from the soybeans. This also will reduce disease pressure from repeated plantings of soybeans on the same fields.
Dr. Roth made it a special point to emphasize the need to eliminate the Palmer Amaranth weed, a new variety of pigweed that has recently come on the scene in Pennsylvania. This summer annual broadleaf weed is native to the southwestern U.S. He said it is a prolific weed that produces more than 100,000 seeds per plant. More importantly, it tends to be glyphosate-resistant and other herbicides as well. He said Pennsylvania farmers should have a “zero-tolerance” attitude toward this weed.