Five Factors That Affect Soybean Yields

August 10, 2016 05:00 AM
Soybeans Miss

Although corn yields have soared over the past decade, soybeans seem to be stuck in a rut. That perception is keeping some farmers from realizing the true potential of soybeans, says Missy Bauer, Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist.

“You can’t just focus in on one thing,” Bauer told farmers Tuesday during the 2016 Farm Journal Soybean College in Albert Lea, Minn.

Instead, Bauer recommends thinking through a variety of issues that can help farmers troubleshoot potential yield pitfalls and achieve new production highs. Here are five factors to watch as you walk soybean fields during the late summer period.

Factor #1: Systems approach. This technique involves paying attention to tillage, soil conditions, weeds, insects, disease, harvest loss and fertility.

Factor #2: Pods per plant. “I think this is our biggest opportunity to change soybean yields,” Bauer says. By increasing pods per plant, farmers can boost output in a big way.

Factor #3: Variety selection. “How important is variety selection?” Bauer says. “I think it’s huge.” By picking the right genetics, you can add a layer of protection against disease such as white mold.

Factor #4: Row spacing. By planting the proper row spacing, you can improve photosynthesis and ensure the right amount of light and water reaches the crop.

Factor #5: Annual fertilization. Some farmers think that the fertilizer they’ve applied to their corn crop one year will be enough to fertilizer next year’s soybean crop, Bauer says. But that’s not the case. Potassium deficiency, for example, has skyrocketed in the past few years in both soybeans and corn, but it’s most pronounced in soybeans.

By no means are these the only factors you should monitor throughout the season. But by paying attention to these issues and others like them, you can improve your crop’s odds of success.

For more about the 2016 Soybean College, visit

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