What’s Stealing Your Soybean Yields?

July 30, 2013 07:04 AM
What’s Stealing Your Soybean Yields?

Missy Bauer explains what components drive yield and how you can you can achieve high-yielding soybeans.

Soybeans are complex plants with lots of untapped potential. To maximize their yield potential you need to take a full-system approach.

"You have to realize many things work together to create a high-yielding environment for soybeans," says Missy Bauer, Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist. "To have high-yielding soybeans you need to reduce yield-limiting factors."

So what are these yield robbers? It could be any of these 10 elements of the systems approach:

Systems Approach

Here are four factors Bauer highlighted during the 2013 Soybean College in Coldwater, Mich.

Seed Variety

Bauer says farmers don’t tend to spend as much time researching their soybean varieties as much as they do their corn, which can really limit yield. Bauer does variety trials on her test plots and says the results show different varieties can range more than 10 bu. per acre.

Bauer’s advice is to select varieties that have been tested in your area. "Review your field’s history and match the variety to your fields’ needs."


For many farmers, soybean planting date is determined by when they finish planting corn. While that may be the only option, Bauer says planting date holds real opportunity for yield.

Based on research, Bauer says planting dates contribute to the number of pods per plant and seed size – both of which are key factors in yield.

However, early planting dates can lead to increased risk of seedling diseases (white mold, brown stem rot, sudden death syndrome). She says you need to be ready to manage for this increased pressure.


Bauer says all farmers should have a weed management plan for their soybean fields. Weeds, of course, compete for nutrients with your beans, but they can also host pests and diseases.

"Try to control the weeds before they get too big," she says. "Don’t let your weeds get bigger than a soda can."

Weed control before planting is essential. Bauer says you need a clean seedbed, so you should to a burndown application in the fall or spring to ensure weeds are removed.

Harvest Loss

It would be a shame to not get all of your beans from the field to the bin. Bauer says it is pretty common to find a couple bushels of beans out in the field.

With soybeans being shorter-than-normal this year, you’ll likely need to adjust your combine’s header height to run as close to the ground as possible. During harvest, be sure to calculate your harvest loss as you go, to make further adjustments.

For More Information
Bauer says a good resource for soybean yield tips is the University of Wisconsin’s Soybean Yield-Limiting Factors in Wisconsin brochure.


Thank you to the 2013 Corn and Soybean College sponsors:

Agrotain, BASF, Great Plains Mfg., Novozymes, Plant Tuff, Precision Planting, SFP, Wolftrax

Catch up on full coverage of Corn College at FarmJournalCornCollege.com.


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