by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

WATERLOO, NY — Soybean growers can increase yields through a few improvements in management. Senior Soybean Educator Mike Staton with Michigan State University Extension presented on the topic at the recent Soybean & Small Grains Congress, hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension Northwest NY Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Program.

Beginning with treated seeds can offer farmers a head start on a bountiful harvest. Staton completed research in 2018 on ILeVO® seed treatment. He found that the treatment boosted soybean yields by five bushels per acre at two locations in 2016, by 2.1 bushels in one site in 2017 and by 1.9 bushels at one site in 2018.

“When all the locations were combined, ILeVO increased soybean yields by 1.9 bushels per acre and income by $3.50 per acre,” he said.

The income per acre includes the additional cost of using ILeVO.

A different seed trial in 2017 and 2018 used the same variety and seed lot to help researchers fairly compare results, using “naked” seeds for the control group. Farmers selected the seed treatments they wanted to use. Complete seed treatments — fungicide mix and insecticide — were applied at 20 of the 21 sites. The researchers encouraged participants to conduct the trials in fields where they had experienced emergence problems or poor stands previously.

“Seed treatment did make a difference for us,” Staton said.

Although one location broke even and two suffered losses of .1 and 1.2 bushels, the average was 1.2 more bushels per acre.

“This is slightly below the average breakeven yield increase for a basic fungicide mix and insecticide seed treatment,” Staton said. “Seed treatment increased final stands by more than 7,000 plants per acre when all sites were combined.”

Staton also presented research from 2016 through 2018 on field rolling.

“Rolling at pre-emergence punches stones down in,” he said. “Some think rolling is for making plants stronger. I’m rolling to get stones down in.”

In his research project, six fields were involved in 2016, seven in 2017 and four in 2018. The researchers encouraged producers to roll their fields at the growth stages that best fit their operations. The most common stage was pre-emergence. The first trifoliate “seemed to give the biggest benefit,” Staton said.

Some chose the second trifoliate and those that chose the third trifoliate typically found it was too late to offer any benefits.

An unrolled control field was included at 12 of the sites. The researchers took final stand counts at 10 of the 17 sites.

Rolling at first trifoliate improved yields over the unrolled control fields at two of the 13 sites and reduced yields at one location.

“I don’t think we can count on a yield advantage with rolling,” Staton concluded. “It’s a harvest advantage because of the stones, but no financial advantage.”

Staton also presented research on his white mold fungicide comparison trial, which looked at three treatments — Omega, Propulse and untreated — at four locations in 2107 and three locations in 2018. Participants applied both fungicides at the lowest recommended rate for white mold, 12 oz. per acre for Omega and 6 oz. per acre for Propulse, at about one week after first flower.

“All of the sites had a history of white mold,” Staton said. “White mold incidence was heavy at two sites and moderate at one site and very low at all other locations.”

The research indicated that fungicide increased yield threefold at each site but one.

“But we do need to look at the price difference between products,” Staton noted.

Staton stressed that timing of fungicide application makes a difference in effectiveness. He recommends the Sporcaster app from Michigan State, “which answers the questions, ‘Will you have mold?’ and ‘What’s the best time to apply fungicide?’” Staton said.

Michigan State released the app in May 2018, which is available from Apple or Google.

The app predicts the likelihood of white mold so farmers can more accurately apply fungicide. They still need to scout fields to ensure that their soybeans are at the ideal stage, between flowering and pod development. Operators also need to reference the weather forecast for the next eight to 14 days when using Sporecaster.

“It’s a tool we need to continue to evaluate,” Staton said.

For more than 30 years, Mike Staton has worked as an Extension educator for the University of Michigan and led on-farm research projects.