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5 reasons you shouldn’t plant soybeans until Memorial Day

5 reasons you shouldn’t plant soybeans until Memorial Day
Here’s a tongue-in-cheek look at changes in soybean planting strategy.

I grew up in an area where corn was planted first. Soybeans could go in after corn — whenever you got them planted. People thought soybeans could be planted late and still yield well. And besides, you didn’t want to risk losing them to a freeze.

So here are five reasons from my youth why it was OK to plant soybeans on Memorial Day. And that was when Memorial Day was May 30, not the last Monday in May. My mother never did recognize anything but the traditional Memorial Day. 

1. You could listen to the greatest spectacle in racing!

LATE-PLANTED BEANS BEAT THE HEAT? They don't. Look at these soybeans planted in late May. They’re suffering from dry weather that set in soon after planting.

We had a radio on our Allis-Chalmers 190 XT without a cab, so if you could work in the field on race day, you could listen to the Indianapolis 500. It made busting up clods with a disk easier, because that’s what we did in those days.

2. “I planted beans June 20 one year and they made 52 bushels per acre, so I can do it again.”

That was my dad’s favorite argument. He clung to that freak year like a mouse clings to cheese. I always wondered, but was too afraid to ask, if they made 52 bushels planted June 20, what would they have made planted May 20, or in today’s world, April 20?

3. Late-planted soybeans will emerge much faster.

They better; they’ve got a lot of catching up to do. They have to make up for all the growing degree days they missed out on, while beans planted in early May were up and growing and catching the benefit of warm days.

4. We can tear up more weeds if we wait to plant later.

That assumes you are going to drag out a disk, probably disk twice, and pulverize both weeds and soil. If you wait until late May, the weeds may already have a healthy start and need to be disked twice just to knock them down and make a decent seedbed to plant into. And besides, some of today’s toughest weeds, such as Palmer amaranth, continue germinating after planting, no matter when you plant.

5. You miss out on the odds of the biggest, hardest-pounding thunderstorms.

That dog simply doesn’t hunt. Back on the farm, we replanted 5 acres in front of a neighbor’s house three times.  Each time, a beating rain followed within 24 hours. The third stand wasn’t any better than the first, but it was June 20, so we left them.

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