Despite what the title may lead you to believe, we’re not going to tell you to launch soybeans into outer space. Unlike outer space, which is infinite in size, spacing soybean rows at 15 inches has proven to increase yield, according to Iowa State University Extension. That is not to say there are no similarities between soybeans and space exploration. In fact, achieving higher yields shares a lot of similarities with a successful launch into outer space. Here’s how soybeans do it:
- Faster liftoffs – Soybeans can achieve canopy closure more quickly with narrow rows. Canopy closure minimizes the sun’s rays from penetrating the soil’s surface. This plays an important role in maintaining soil moisture, and it becomes increasingly important during periods of drought.
- Dodging space debris – In addition to protecting against excessive sunlight, soybean foliage may also provide coverage against raindrops. Direct rainfall often dislodges soil particles, which leads to erosion.
- Defense against "space" invaders – Soybean canopies also act as a natural defense against weeds by shading the areas of the soil where weeds could emerge. Weeds act as "space" invaders, and they compete with the soybean plant for precious real estate, water and nutrients.
- Fewer collisions in space – Narrow rows allow soybeans to be spaced further apart within each row. As soybeans are spaced further apart within a row, it allows for less competition for nutrients and water from neighboring plants.