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Take-Home Lessons from 2010

March 12, 2011
By: Darrell Smith, Farm Journal Conservation and Machinery Editor
June09  035
A soybean crop can remove 75% as much phosphorus and more than 50% more potassium than a corn crop, so maintain soil fertility levels.  
 
 

The 2010 growing season showed many soybean producers what can happen if they do everything right and Mother Nature smiles on them. "The environmental conditions in many areas allowed varieties to express the genetic potential that is always present," says Ryan McAllister, a team sales agronomist for Beck’s Hybrids.

How good was 2010? "We saw one field of soybeans following soybeans that yielded 70 bu. per acre," says Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. "Another field that was replanted three times still made 50 bu. per acre."

"A lot of fields in my territory [Ohio and the eastern quarter of Indiana] yielded in the mid-60s to mid-70s," McAllister says. "The normal average yield in this area would be from 46 bu. to 52 or 53 bu. per acre." He says he saw one 40-acre Ohio field crank out 114 bu. per acre.

Even in areas that experienced unusually high levels of sudden death syndrome (SDS), such as east-central Iowa, there were some very good yields, says Jim Fawcett, an Iowa State University Extension field agronomist based in Iowa City.

"It depended how severe SDS was in a particular area. In some cases, you could find yields of 70 bu. per acre and 10 or 20 bu. per acre within a few miles of each other," he says.

 

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On the heels of bin-buster soybean yields, the question now is, can you do it again this year? Sustained yield will depend on two factors: the weather and how well you lay the groundwork for high yields.

In regard to weather, the stars aligned in 2010, McAllister says. In his area, many farmers were able to plant earlier than usual; they planted all of their corn and most of their soybeans in April.

"After planting, many growers had saturated soil conditions for a month. That’s not good for roots—but it’s more of a problem in corn than it is in soybeans," McAllister says. "On the plus side, the rainfall gave us a full soil moisture profile going into summer, so vegetative growth was unbelievable. More plant material early in the season let plants capture more sunlight, which led to more photosynthesis.

"We were dry in the summer, just when disease usually develops," he continues. "As a result, there was less disease than usual. Although the weather was dry, we still had enough subsoil moisture to carry the crop. Then it rained again at pod fill—2" and 3" rains, not small ones."

Plentiful soil moisture positively affected fertility, McAllister adds. Soybeans need a lot of potassium, which tends to get tied up with soil particles under dry conditions.

"Because there was moisture in the soil, potassium remained available to the plants, and they got plenty of it during the vegetative growth and pod-fill stages," McAllister says.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - March 2011

 
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