Tag Archives: soybean

Harvest Wheat, Plant Double-Crop Soybean As Soon As Possible

The recent hot and dry weather is really drying the wheat down quickly.  We harvested our first wheat today (the moisture was ranging from 16 to 20%) and planted soybean immediately afterwards.  Just 2 days ago, the wheat grain moisture was in the mid-20’s!

That experiment is part of our ongoing efforts to harvest higher quality wheat and increase our double-crop soybean yields.  Now, I’m not advising you to harvest your wheat at 20% unless you have a buyer that will take it, preferably without a discount, or you have a way to dry down quickly.  High moisture wheat will heat up quickly and you will need to do something with it right away.

With that said, we have seen great benefits from harvesting higher moisture wheat and getting the soybean planted immediately.  Our Mid-Atlantic regional project conducted from 2015 thru 2017 found greater wheat yields and test weight, and greater soybean yields.  Our data is shown below.  Note that I’m only showing Virginia wheat data as the date where yield began declining differed among the states (this data was earlier as we moved south), but the general shape of the graph was similar.  Different colored symbols represent different years.

 

 

 

 

Note that our soybean yield usually start declining rapidly in mid-June.

In summary, there is benefit from harvesting wheat and planting soybean as soon as possible.  However, read the previous blog, To Plant or Not to Plant into Dry Soil, before making too many decisions.  Not only is our topsoil dry, but the wheat may have removed moisture much deeper – giving us little total soil moisture.

To Plant or Not To Plant Into Dry Soils

Rachel Vann, Extension Soybean Specialist – N.C. State University & David Holshouser, Extension Agronomist, Virginia Tech

Now that the weather has turned hot and dry, and with limited rainfall in the forecast over the next ten days, we are starting to get questions about continuing to plant soybeans or halting planting until we catch a rain. There is no consensus on what to do in this situation, but we aim to discuss the pros and cons of the different approaches in this blog post.

Soybean seed must take in 50% of its weight in water to initiate the germination process. Germination is not affected if the seed has imbibed water for 6 hours (seed is swollen, but seed coat in not broken), then it dehydrates to 10% moisture. If the seed has imbibed water for 12-24 hours (seed coat is broken but no radical has emerged) then dehydrates to 10%, germination may be reduced 35-40%. If the radical has emerged and the seed dehydrates to 10% moisture, few if any seedlings will survive (Holshouser, 2012). What we want to avoid with any approach discussed below is exposing the seed to enough moisture to start germination but not enough for the seed to get out of the ground.

The general optimum planting date range for planting soybeans across North Carolina was identified by Dr. Dunphy as May 1 to June 10. This optimum planting range varies from year-to-year based on rainfall, soil water holding capacity and soybean maturity, but the goal is to get the soybean plants to lap the middles before reproductive growth begins. We still have 10 more days before we get to the end of that optimum range this year and parts of the state have a chance for rain before June 10. Continuing to wait to plant is more of a concern for our growers who still have seed from early maturing varieties to plant (<MG5), as these varieties will have less time for vegetative growth prior to the beginning of reproductive development. The three major options growers in the region are facing are discussed below.

  1. Plant shallowly in the dry and hope for enough rain to get the seed out of the ground. If you decide to take this approach, you want to ensure you achieve uniform seed depth and that you are not allowing the seed access to moisture below the seed that could lead to variable emergence. This approach would be less risky in clean-tilled situation where you are more confident that you have dried the soil out at shallow depths. Dr. Dunphy said he has seen soybeans planted shallowly into dry conditions before that have sat in the ground >5 weeks and still had excellent emergence when rainfall occurred. The biggest risk with this approach is that you catch a small rain that allows the soybean seed to imbibe water but does not provide enough moisture to get the soybeans out of the ground. We would also suggest you exercise caution using this approach in a no-till situation where you would be more likely to see problems with lacking uniformity of moisture across the field leading to variable seed access to moisture and ultimately emergence variability. In many cases, part of the field will have adequate moisture to get the soybeans out of the ground, other parts will be completely dry as in tilled conditions, and much of the field will be in between. Those in-between areas are likely to have enough moisture to swell the seed and/or initiate germination but not have enough moisture to allow the seedling to emerge.    We have had several inquires on the impact of planting into dry conditions on soybean seed treatments. What we can say is that fungicidal seed treatments are less likely needed in this situation where we already have high soil temperatures and lacking soil moisture than they are in earlier planting situations where the soils are cool and wet.
  2. Plant deep to the moisture. Under most conditions, soybeans should be planted 0.75 to 1.5 inches deep. Soil temperatures are high enough right now to germinate and emerge quickly, even at deeper depths than recommended. But soybeans should not be planted deeper than 2 inches. We’ve talked to several growers and County Agents across the region who are not finding soil moisture until 3 to 4 inches deep; we definitely do not recommend planting this deep.  Growers should exercise caution using this approach if your soils are prone to crusting, because a heavy rainfall could seal the soil before the soybeans emerge. In addition, if the planter pushes the soil down a little in tilled conditions, creating a ridge of fluffy soil on each side, a heavy rain will cause this fluffy soil to move into that furrow and possibly add another ½ to 1 inches of soil to your depth.  If you are going to go this route, check the emergence score on the variety.
  3. Keep the seed in the bag until the next time we catch rain. This is the safest approach at this point. Based on historical data, we have another 10 days or so before we start seeing yield declines from delayed planting. Parts of the state have a chance of rain in the next 10 days. Data from recent research throughout the Mid-Atlantic shows that each day delay in planting past mid-June can result in a ½ bu/A or more yield loss and in general these yield declines begin in the second or third week of June; we still have some time before we get to that point.

Whatever decision a grower makes, uniform seed placement in critical to achieve uniform emergence and ensure each seed has as equal of access to water as possible. We have discussed the importance of uniform emergence in soybeans here: https://soybeans.ces.ncsu.edu/2019/04/how-important-is-uniform-emergence-in-soybeans/

In conclusion, there are advantages and disadvantages to each planting option discussed, but we still have time to plant soybeans in our region before we see drastic yield declines. All options discussed will likely result in delayed emergence due to environmental conditions.

Would Soybean Yields Rise If We Started Planting in April?

April planting is thought to have an advantage over May planting because we can shift the development of soybean to an earlier time of the year  where there is more sunlight.   More total sunlight per day should result in greater yields.  But, does this hold up in Virginia?  Likewise, an earlier variety will also shift maturity, and the critical stages of development, to a time of the year when the days are longer.  So in theory, planting early-maturing varieties early should result in the greatest yields.

My concern is that when you shift your development to earlier times of the year, you are also placing the most critical pod and seed development stages in a hotter and drier time of the year.  While you could possibly alleviate the dry part with irrigation, I know of no way to keep the temperature from rising.

To test these hypotheses, we planted 10 to 12 varieties ranging in maturity from late-3’s to early-6’s in April, May, and June at three Virginia locations in 2017 and 2018.  I’m not going to show the data because we found relative maturity responded differently depending on location, and it would just take up too much room to show all the graphs.  However, we have seen no benefit to planting soybean in April versus May, although April plantings did not usually yield less than May plantings.  Maturity group response depended more on location and when the rain fell.

So, I suggest that you base your planting date and or relative maturity decisions on your need to spread out planting or harvesting.  April planting date is OK, but not necessary for greater yields.  Keep in mind that soils are usually cooler in April, so it will normally take soybean longer to emerge than when planted in May.  Fungicides will be needed for April and early-May plantings.

Planting a slightly earlier maturing soybean is usually OK also.  For more information on maturity selection, see my previous blog, “Improving Your Soybean Variety Selection Decisions – What maturity is best?

If you do plant in April and/or want to use early-maturing varieties, then do this on your best soils.  If you move the critical stages of development to a hotter and drier time of the year, you’ll need the greater water-holding capacity of those soils.

Full-Season Soybean Seeding Rates: Maximize Your Yield and Reduce Your Risks

In general, high seed costs have resulted in a reduction in the number of soybean seed planted per acre.  For our full-season production system, most have reduced their seeding rate to 140,000 or less.  Some have even had success with rates as low as 80 to 100 thousand seed/acre.  My research over the years has shown that we only need, on average, about 70 to 80 thousand plants/acre to maximize our yield.  But is this too low? Yes, it could be – in some situations.

There is also interest in varying seeding rates.  I said many years ago that it appears that this is possible.  But our approach to variable-rate soybean seeding will be just the opposite of how we vary our rates with corn.  With corn, we increase seeding rate as our yield potential increases.  With soybean, we do just the opposite – we reduce our seeding rate as yield potential rises.  But, how much can we reduce seeding rate with rising yield potential?

To answer both questions – Is a final stand of 70 to 80 thousand plants too low? and How do I vary soybean seeding rates?, I analyzed over 10 years (over 25 experiments from 2003-2011) of on-farm and small-plot research to determine the optimal seeding rate for three different yield potentials.  The results along with my recommendations are shown below.

For low yields of 20-40 bushels/acre:

Plant 120 – 140 thousand seed /acre.

Why not less?  The data to the left indicates that the optimal seeding rate (area between the two vertical dotted lines) ranges between around 100 to 120 thousand seed/acre.  Why is this not my seeding rate.  There is too much variability in the data; therefore too much risk.  In some years, yields could have been reduced with this rate.  So, I’m hedging towards less risk at these yield potentials.

 

For medium yields of 40 to 55 bushels/acre:

Plant 100 – 120 thousand seed/acre.

You will notice that the optimal seeding rate has declined to around 90 to 110 thousand seed/acre.  Note that this is only about 10,000 seed less that the previous graph, but I lowered my recommendation by 20,000 seed.  Why?  There is little variability in these data; hence, I have more confidence.

 

 

For high yields of 55 to 70 bushels/acre:

Plant 90 to 110 thousand seed/acre.

Like low yield potentials, I’m starting to hedge a little here towards less risk although my data indicates that I can go lower.  There were cases where is took nearly 120,000 seed to get the maximum yields.

 

 

One comment that I get with these data is: “These data are old.  Does it still hold up with newer varieties?”  A good question!  So, I’ve conducted seeding rate experiments over the past 2 years and I’ll continue this coming year.  To summarize, the most recent data has not changed my recommendations – I think that these trends still hold true.  However, we did see some differences last year – a year of wet and cloudy conditions.  The data are below:

With our maturity group 4 trials, we saw yield continue to rise with seeding rate, and our yields were in the high range (about 50 to 60 bushels/acre).  But yields with the group 5 soybeans tended to level off at about 120 thousand seed/acre.   Why a different response and why did maturity group matter?

 

 

I think the answer is lack of sunlight.  Total photosynthetically-active radiation interception differences are one of the reasons that we get yield responses to seeding rate.  In most cases, this is a lack of leaf area; we are not intercepting all the light.  But, this was not the case in 2019.  We had what I normally consider enough leaf area, at least enough for a sunny year.  But we had less light in 2019.  The group 5 soybean did have more leaf area than the group 4 soybean; I’m assuming that these few extra leaves made up a little for the lack of light.  Cloudiness is one of the risks we take.  Still, I won’t change my recommendations based on last year since it was rather unusual.

In conclusion, if you want to chose the best full-season seeding rate in Virginia for your yield potential, my recommendations are:

Low yields: 120 to 140 thousand seed/acre

Medium yields: 100 to 120 thousand seed/acre

High yields: 90 to 110 thousand seed/acre

 

Improving Your Soybean Variety Selection Decisions – What maturity is best?

Variety selection continues to be one of the most important decisions that we can make.  It is also one of the first steps to take that insure success.  It’s a hard choice because there are so many varieties available.  Still, this choice is one that will affect your profitability throughout the year.

Soybean yields in our variety tests have increased by an average of 0.4 bushels per year over the last 30 years.  Some of this increase is due to better varieties, some is due to better management.  In those tests, the highest and lowest yielding varieties varied by 20% or more (8-10 bushels).  It is therefore clear that making the wrong choice will seriously impact next year’s soybean crop.  Unfortunately, environment (rainfall, temperature, soil type, field, etc.) affects yield variation more than variety – there is always lots of year-to-year and site-to-site variation.  Still, each variety has specific strengths and weaknesses that make it more or less suited for any given situation.

Putting the Right Variety in the Right Field

With all this variation, it is very important that you place the right variety in the right field.  This will be influenced by 1) planting full-season or double-crop; 2) maturity; 3)herbicide tolerance; 4) disease and/or nematode tolerance; and finally 5) yield potential.  There are also a number of other factors that differentiate varieties such  as shattering and lodging susceptibility, height, branching ability (thin vs. bushy), seed size, seeds/pod, protein and oil content, other specific traits, etc.), but these will rarely affect your bottom line.   Although all of the top five things I listed are important, yield potential is clearly what is of most interest.  However, if you do not pay attention to numbers 1 through 4 first, your yield potential can be low.

To cover all of the things that make variety selection important would take more words than this blog will allow, so we will first focus on the choosing the right maturity.

Relative Maturity Choice: Spreading Out Environmental Risk

First, I should say something about early planting of an early-maturing variety.  I define this as planting in April or early May a variety that is about one full maturity group earlier than the maturity that is most adapted, based on historical data, for your area.  First, early-planted early-maturing varieties will always have a greater risk of poor quality seed.  The seed of these varieties are maturing during September and early October, when the weather is relatively warmer.  Warm and wet weather are perfect conditions for seed decay.  2018 has been one of the worse years for this, primarily due to excessive rainfall and much warmer September temperatures.  To the right is an example of a maturity group (MG) 3 soybean planted in April in Madison County (MG 4 is the most adapted maturity for this area).  Clearly, you don’t want to end up with this.  While early maturing varieties have their advantages, their associated risks should keep the percentage of acres planted to a minimum.

On the other hand, do not keeping all varieties in a tight maturity range.  The performance of varieties within a certain maturity range will almost always depend the environment that they experience during pod and seed fill.  If conditions are good (adequate rainfall, moderate temperatures, good soils) during that time, yields will be high.  Unfortunately, the weather cannot be predicted in our humid southeastern U.S. environment.  While late-July and early-August are generally our hottest and driest times of the year, we have just as good of a chance of going through a hot and dry period in June as well as July as well as August, and sometimes in September.          Still, on average, certain relative maturity ranges yield more than others in the south central part of Virginia.  Below are the average yield balance (no. of bushels/acre greater or less than average) of a range of soybean maturities tested in our full-season variety tests over the last 10 years, separated by location.

I’ll use our Southern Piedmont location (Blackstone) as an example of a location that shows the greatest yield gap between the earliest and latest varieties (nearly 15 bushels!).  This is likely due that area typically experiencing the more stress (hot and dry) from late July through August than other regions.

Similar but on the opposite end of the spectrum, MG 3 and 4 varieties work best at the Northern Piedmont (Orange) location.  Maturity group 5 varieties generally not as adapted in that northerly environment.

The northern and southern Coastal Plain sites (Warsaw and Suffolk) behave similarly to Blackstone – MG 5 outperform MG 4 varieties; but the yield gap between relative maturities is not as wide.

Our Eastern Shore location does not follow the same trend of MG 5’s being the highest average yielding varieties as one moves south and east.

Note that maturity group (MG) 5 varieties relatively better in the more eastern and southern locations of Virginia’s mainland, while MG 4 varieties tend to do better in our most northwestern location (Orange) and on the Eastern Shore (Painter).  While MG 3’s don’t yield as well, the group 4’s are the highest yielding.  Why?  I attribute it to two things: yield potential and temperature.  In general, this site has over time been one of our highest yielding sites.  Although rainfall patterns are similar to other locations in Virginia, it is our coolest location (and there is usually a breeze) – both likely a water effect.  Therefore, the site experiences less stress.  So, pushing the critical pod- and seed-filling stages slightly earlier in the year are not as problematic.

So, should you stick only with maturities that perform best on average?  Not necessarily.  Using Blackstone as an example, note that although the late-group 4 varieties yield less than MG 5’s on average, they yield much better than earlier 4’s.  And late-4’s yield just as well as 5’s in Orange and Suffolk.  I stress that these are averages – 10-year averages of all varieties within those relative maturity ranges.  Is it possible for the MG 4 varieties to yield more than the 5’s in Blackstone or Warsaw?  Is it possible for MG 5’s to yield more in Painter?  Yes!  It just does not happen as often.

We took that same data and calculated the probabilities, not absolute yields, of obtaining similar or greater yields of all relative maturity groupings tested.  The results are below.

Once again, to use the Blackstone data as an example, we can see that growing a late-MG 5 variety will yield at least as much as all of the other relative maturities 90% of the time (bar height).  In addition, there is a 50 to 60% chance (height of the hatched portion of the bar) that the 5’s will yield significantly more than the 4’s.  So, it seems that you will never go wrong with those varieties, correct?  You’ll probably (~80% chance) not go wrong by growing a large percentage of those varieties, but should you should you only plant MG 5’s?  I suggest that you do not grow only MG 5 varieties.  There is still a 10 to 20% chance that the 5’s will yield less than the other maturities.  Plus, there is a 60% chance that late MG 4 varieties will yield just as much as MG 5 varieties (and a 30% chance that they will yield more).

Painter is another good example.  Although there is a yield gap between the 4’s and 5’s, there is a 50 to 70% chance that MG 5 will yield as well as MG 4 varieties.  And there is a 30% chance that they will yield more!  You can use the same thought process for the other locations.

Below are the same graphs for double-crop tests.The Right Mix of Maturity Groups in Virginia.  So, what is the right mix of maturity groups?  I suggest the following:

Southern Piedmont

  • Plant 60 to 80% of your land to MG 5 varieties. We have also found that later maturities generally do better on our more droughty soils, so take that into consideration if possible.
  • Plant 20 to 30 % to late-MG 4 varieties (4.7-4.9). If possible, plant these on your higher-yielding soils.  We have found that this range of maturities have our greatest yield potential throughout Virginia if the weather cooperates.
  • Plant 0 to 20 % to mid-MG 4 varieties. These are risky, especially on droughty soils or in double-crop settings.  It is highly likely that these varieties will experience some (or a lot) of stress during the seed and pod fill stages.  Plus, seed quality will almost always be poorer than other maturities.  If you do grow these, harvest as soon as possible as seed quality will continue to degrade with time.  Don’t plant these in April or early May. This places the most critical times of development (pod and seed fill) during late-July and August.  And seed quality will be even worse since they will likely mature during the warmer part of the year.  Still, yield potential can occasionally be quite high.

Southern Coastal Plain (same comments apply regarding droughty soils and seed quality)

  • Plant 30 to 60% of your land to MG 5 varieties.
  • Plant 30 to 50 % to late-MG 4 varieties (4.7-4.9).
  • Plant 10 to 20 % to early- and mid-MG 4 varieties.

Northern Coastal Plain (same comments apply regarding droughty soils and seed quality)

  • Plant 30 to 60% of your land to MG 5 varieties. In double-crop systems, reduce that percentage to 30 to 50%.
  • Plant 30 to 50 % to MG 4 varieties (4.7-4.9). In double-crop systems, increase that to 50 to 70% late-4’s and plant 10-20% early-or mid-4’s.
  • Plant 0 to 20 % to late-MG 3 varieties.

Eastern Shore (same comments apply regarding droughty soils and seed quality)

  • Plant 20 to 40% of your land to MG 5 varieties.
  • Plant 50 to 70 % to late-MG 4 varieties (4.7-4.9).
  • Plant 10 to 20 % to early- and mid-MG 4 varieties. Plant 0-10% in double-crop.
  • Plant 10 to 20% to late-MG 3 varieties.

Northern Piedmont (same comments apply regarding droughty soils and seed quality)

  • Plant 0 to 20% of your land to MG 5 varieties. Don’t plant MG 5’s double-crop.
  • Plant 60 to 80 % to MG 4 varieties (4.7-4.9).
  • Plant 10 to 20 % to mid- or late-MG 3 varieties.

The proportion of MG 4 and 5 will ultimately depend on your risk tolerance.  Note that as you move west and north, the risk of an early frost is greater; therefore, growing lots of late-maturing varieties may not be a great idea, especially double-crop, and the probability of slightly earlier maturities doing better is greater.

Hopefully, this will give you some guidance in choosing your maturities within the next few weeks.

IMPORTANT:  Keep in mind that the yields and yield balances shown are an average of all varieties in those relative maturity groupings.  This does not mean that every variety in those grouping perform in this manner on every field.  Make sure that you first the variety that meets your match your field’s pest management needs; then, select a high-yielding variety within that relative maturity range.

 

Virginia Soybean Yield Contest

The purpose of the Virginia Soybean Yield Contest is to emphasize and demonstrate the practices necessary to produce maximum economic yields, to recognize those producers who grow high-yielding soybeans, and to gather data on the practices utilized by these outstanding producers.
The Virginia Soybean Association in cooperation with Virginia Cooperative Extension sponsors this program.
There are four Soybean Yield Contest categories: 1) Full-Season, Non- irrigated; 2) Double-Crop, Non-irrigated; and 3) Irrigated (Full-Season or Double-Crop; and 4) Most Efficient. A full-season system is defined as the grain or seed harvest of one summer crop (soybean in this case) from the same field in one year. Double-crop is defined as planting soybean immediately following grain harvest of barley or wheat; thus harvesting two crops from the same field in the same year. If soybeans are planted after a cover, silage, or hay crop of small grain, then the entry will be considered full- season. If field has been irrigated one or more times, the entry will be considered an irrigated field and the will be placed into the irrigated contest. Yield alone (bushels/acre) determines the winners in the first three categories.
Notice of intent to participate must be submitted to your county/city Extension Agent’s office 5 days before harvest or in an acceptable time frame for your Extension Agent. Extension Agents shall maintain the original set of record sheets and applications of all participants and send a copy to Dr. David L. Holshouser, Extension Agronomist, Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center, 6321 Holland Rd, Suffolk, VA 23437 by Dec. 31.
Application forms and a complete set of rules and regulations can be found on the Soybean Yield Contest website.

Soybean Sprouting in the Pods/Pod Splitting

We are seeing immature soybean once again sprouting in the pods in Suffolk and Gloucester County, and I heard of this happening in other states.  This seems to occur every 3-6 years somewhere.  Although I don’t have a great explanation for why this occurs, it usually happens when there are good growing conditions early followed by 2-4 weeks of drought stress during pod formation, and then excellent conditions return for seed fill.  Typically, it happens in big-canopied soybean (lots of leaf area) with lots of yield potential, but not enough pods (or big enough pods) to fulfill that potential.  I think that the seeds enlarge so much that the pod splits.

Keep in mind that I’m talking about immature seeds and pods.  This can also occur after the crop matures (R7 to R8) when we get excessive rainfall after the seed in question has dried down.  But, I have not seen that yet this year.

There is little that you can do about it.  Those sprouted seed will usually dry up on the plant and be blown out the back of the combine.

Although there has to be some yield loss, I’ve not seen it to be very great.  And, I suspect that if you did not notice the sprouted seed, you probably would not know that you had a loss.

For more information, see previous blogs on this subject.

Wet Conditions May Lead to Soybean Seed Sprouting

The Good and Bad of a Wet September

Finishing Out the Soybean Crop – What do we need for Good Yields?

In general, we’ve had a good, but not great year for soybean in Virginia.  Although many areas were hit with a 3 to 4 week dry spell during July, August rains kept us in the game.  However, we did not see the ample  rains or cool temperatures that we experienced in August of 2017, which resulting in record yields.  Below is a summary of August rainfall and temperature anomalies for the U.S.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you’ll notice,  we had about average or slightly below average precipitation and average to slightly above average temperatures for most of Virginia’s soybean growing areas.

So, I do not suspect that our yields will be as good as last year.  Still, our earlier-maturing varieties planted in April or May should yield quite respectably considering that most have made over 50% of their yield – they have reached the R6 stage (see photo below).  Yield of our later-maturing varieties, planted in May and early June, and our double-crop plantings are not quite there yet – much of our yield is yet to be determined – R5 soybean have only made roughly 25% of their yield at that time.

So, what do we need for good yields?  Rain is obvious.  Full-canopied plants with adequate soil moisture will draw about 0.25 inches of water/day from the soil.  But, we also need cool temperatures – soybean do not generally like 90+ degree days, especially when forming seed.

Below is the 10 day rainfall and temperature forecast for the U.S., and it does not necessarily look good for us.  Note that the rainfall is predicted accumulation and the temperature map shows anomaly.  Although we should get some rain this weekend only (more in northern parts), temperatures are supposed to be above average.  But, forecasts are only forecasts.  The weather does change.  I hope we will get the needed rainfall that they are predicting this weekend.  But a big ridge appears to be setting up over the Mid-Atlantic states for next week.  This usually means warm weather and only at the edges of ridges do we normally see rainfall – note the heavy rainfall predicted from Nebraska through Michigan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t mean to discourage, just to inform.  We still have decent soil moisture, at least in the subsoil.  With rain this weekend, we should get through next week without too much harm to the crop.

Our double-crop soybean (assuming late maturity group 4’s and group 5’s planted in late June to July) are just now in the R5 stage – it usually takes 80 to 100 days from planting to reach R6, depending on maturity and planting date.  So some timely September rains will usually result in good double-crop soybean.

When will our yield be “made”?  Below is table showing the number of days to soybean physiological maturity (R7; 95% of yield has made).  When can we expect to be harvesting our soybean?  Full maturity is reached about 2 weeks after R7 and harvest can proceed after the soybean have dried down to a harvestable moisture, usually within a week after R8.

Walk Your Fields

For greater soybean yields, one of the best things that you can do is walk your fields.  Many problems reveal themselves during the summer.  Actions taken or not taken can be very noticeable.  By walking fields, we can see what’s working and what’s not working.  Certain problems can be solved, some cannot.  For those that cannot be solved this year, we can do better next season by understanding why we have the problem.  Therefore, a review of how to diagnose your crop will likely beneficial.

A few years ago, I published “Troubleshooting The Soybean Crop“.  Although a little dated, most of the information is still good.  This publication will guide you through how to go about diagnosing problems, includes a vegetative- and reproductive-stage outline with lots of photos, and also includes a sample crop scouting and diagnostic form.  You can download a view a PDF copy, or contact me – I still have a few hard copies left.  By following some general guidelines, one can become quite good at diagnosing problems.  Below is a summary.

First, document everything!  Memories tend to fade.  We often forget or overlook details. You can document by taken notes (many phone apps or iPad/tablets work well for this).  Make a recording.  Take pictures – this is especially useful when you need help – and send those photos to others.

PRELIMINARY FACT FINDING.  You can obtain plenty of information before you even get to the field.  Although I call this preliminary (as if you’ve not seen the problem), you may need to go back to the office to refresh your memory of what you did.  Information that can be acquired beforehand or back in the office includes:     

  • Cropping History
  • Equipment
  • Soil Information
  • Weather
  • Pest Management Information
  • Tillage and Other Cultural Practices

THE FIELD VISIT

  • Take all materials and equipment needed (e.g., phones, paper, shovel, plastic bags, soil probes, etc.)
  • Windshield/Whole Field Investigation
  • Above-Ground Inspection
  • Take Appropriate Plant or Soil Samples
  • Equipment Check
  • Interaction with Others
  • Document Everything!

ANALYSIS OF DATA AND FINDINGS

  • Patterns
  • Look-Alike Symptoms
  • Interacting Factors/More Than One Problem

DRAWING A CONCLUSION. Review the facts and data.  Eliminate unlikely causes.  Validate likely causes.  You may be able to drawn a conclusion in the field, but lab analysis may be needed.

FOLLOW UP. Revisit the field.  If you took corrective action, did it work?  Why or why not?

This is a very rough outline of the guide.  Again, if you want a hard copy of Troubleshooting The Soybean Crop, contact me.