Those of you that know me at all know that there are a couple of topics that I am always ready to talk about. Obviously one is water and irrigation. The other one is planting. So as you spend some quality time behind the steering wheel right now, I am going to challenge you to look across your soybean fields and begin to think about not just planting, but how we plant our soybeans.
Now, I know that talking about soybeans is not nearly as exciting for many of you as talking about corn, but as you are out in the fields right now, I think that you are probably seeing some things that are causing you some frustration and maybe even a little heartburn. For starters, let’s talk about your bottom ground. I want you to mentally score yourself on the following three questions about your low-lying areas.
- Do I have disease pressure here that is not present in other areas of the field?
- Do I have lodging here that is worse than other areas?
- Is my best ground producing less than my best yields?
If your answer to any of the questions was yes, then let’s talk about why. I think we can point to one of 3 issues in those areas. Water, compaction, or population. If it is water, we need to talk about VRI. If it is compaction, we need to be measuring it and defining the problem. But if it isn’t those other 2, then we arrive back at population. It is quite possible that because these plants don’t lack for the nutrition that they need, they grow faster than other areas, and compete with each other and become ropey. Then we have problems, and our best ground falls apart. What if we took this area and cut the population. With less completion, the plants will take the nutrients and grow out instead of up, and we should see improvements in yield.
On the other side of the coin is the nasty hills that not all of you have. For those of you that see high pH test in your hills, you understand what it’s like to have soybeans that wouldn’t rub the belly of a running coyote. Our problem here is that there is so much calcium released into the soil solution and that calcium uptake into plants is what creates this pH-induced Iron Chlorosis problem that we see. In those cases, we see positive effects in plant health and height by increasing populations and spreading the calcium load out to more plants. And in the end, that has shown on several occasions to improve yield potential.
So as you make another round across your bean field, ponder this as your take home for the day. We know how important that matching our corn seeding rate to our Variable Yield Goal is for unlocking our next level of potential on our fields. Is it more than just a possibility that changing our seeding rate can unlock that 0.5% that we need to pay for it? I certainly think so. But before we are done here today, I want you to think one step further. What if we took the entirety of this conversation today, and instead of approaching it from a population standpoint, applied a multi-variety mentality to it. Having a different soybean variety; dare I say the “right” soybean variety in each of those situations could have double-digit impacts on your soybean yields.
If you are seeing more variability in your soybeans than you like right now, get your trusted advisor out to the field to see it. Another set of eyeballs can help zero in on the cause of variability. And if we can zero in on why our soybeans are giving us trouble in places, then I feel very confident that we can work together to make a plan so that the planter addresses it, and we don’t do this all over again next fall.