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  • Unconventional Ag

New Technology May Boost Soybean Yields

Some factors contributing to soybean yields such as weather or fertility may be out of human control (for now), but other controllable aspects are being discovered and honed in field research, such as selection, seed treatments, row spacing, population, and foliar protection, that can be manipulated to gain optimum yields.

Jason Weber, research director of Beck’s Hybrid Central Illinois Practical Farm, recently discussed on-farm research being conducted that would drive higher yields at the Soybean Summit hosted by the Illinois Soybean Association. Weber reported on the following:

  • After eight years of research, Beck’s found that 15-inch rows yield 3.2 bushels per acre more than 30-inch rows, and the optimum seeding rate for 15-inch rows is 100,000 seeds per acre, compared to the optimum rate for 30-inch rows which is 125,000 seeds per acre.

  • Seeding dates have been found to be more forgiving - studies conducted between 2006 and 2014 found that planting soybeans at any point between the first week of April and the last week of May would cause no loss in yield. However, delaying into June would cost a farmer 5.3 bushels per acre per week of delay.

  • Twenty years of on-farm data indicates that traditional tilling outperformed no-till methods 52% of the time. However, no-till methods gave an $8.34 per acre average net return advantage over tilling. Additional research showed that moldboard plowing provided a 1.2 bushel per acre gain, but a return on investment loss of -$1.56 per acre.

  • On-farm trials over the past two years found that planting defensive varieties on lower producing soils gave a three bushel per acre advantage and planting offensive soybean varieties on high-producing soils offered a 3.4 bushel per acre advantage, giving a 6.4 bushel per acre advantage across a whole field.

  • Traditional over-the-top fungicide foliar treatment methods offered a 1.7 bushels per acre advantage, however treatments were not profitable when taking into account the cost of production and application. Last year, the research farm employed the 360 UnderCOVER application system to deliver inner canopy coverage for various sprays including fungicides, insecticides, and nutritional products, and found that the system outperformed traditional over-the-top systems by an additional 1.7 bushels per acre, doubling the yield response of over-the-top applications, while also offering additional net return of $19.04 per acre.

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