There are few people who can attribute their whole livelihood to something about the size of a pencil eraser that is a tasty snack for worms and susceptible to many fungi and diseases. Farmers bet their livelihood every year on seeds and their ability to bring yield and dollars.
When you make a seed purchase, price is often top of mind, but there are many other important considerations. The basics of weather, water availability, photosynthesis and variety selections all play a key role in your yields, and selecting the right product for each specific field will be essential in driving revenue in 2016.
1. Weather, one of the most important factors in bolstering soybeans yields, is out of farmer’s control, says Bill Wiebold, University of Missouri Extension soybean specialist. “You’ve got to have cooperation with Mother Nature.”
Whether it’s getting rainfall in the amount you need, or avoiding late frost in the spring or early frost in the fall, Mother Nature plays an extensive role in crop success. To maximize yields, look at historical weather, try to have contingency plans for any weather extreme and consider irrigation.
2. A soybean’s ability to access water can limit yield. Weather, soil type and soil conditions influence water uptake.
When it comes to planting, spraying, tillage and harvest it can be easy to toss out the importance of soil health, but Wiebold warns the consequences could affect you for years to come. “Sometimes respect for soil goes out the window because we need to get things done, but we need to protect future yield," he says.
Soil compaction leads to shallow roots that don’t take in as much water as the plant may need. You want roots to go through multiple layers of soil so in dry years it can reach stored water.
3. Yield relies on photosynthesis. Overall plant health in the leaves, stems and roots is essential in helping the plant photosynthesize. You can preserve plant health by addressing fungicide or nutrient needs in a timely manner, employing accurate plant spacing, taking advantage of early planting and practicing effective weed management to reduce light and water competition.
Talk with your seed provider to determine optimum population and row spacing. If you are trying to boost yields, you might consider switching to a longer season soybean and planting earlier to increase the time the plant has to flower and set pods.
“Scout those fields,” Wiebold says. “We need to be in the fields even when it’s less than pleasant because if you’re going to deal with a problem in a field you need to catch it early.”
Manage weed pressure through scouting and timely herbicide application. According to the University of Illinois, one giant ragweed per square meter can reduce soybean yield by 52%.
4. Variety selection can make or break your season before the seed is in the ground. “Farmers who do well are making sure they select varieties that suit their farm and management style. They’re never complacent,” Wiebold says.
Before you buy seed it’s important to understand what you’re working with. “Do an honest assessment of what Mother Nature has already provided,” Wiebold says.
If you are reaching for higher yields, plan according to the conditions of each field and don’t forget the basics.