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Legend no longer: Five-bean soybean pods

Five-bean soybean pods have been the stuff of legend for many farmers. They were something to aspire to but few expected to see more than one or two in their lifetimes.

As the 2012 harvest finished up in Tennessee, however, three soybean producers reported the rare occurrence on their farms. Each discovered the phenomenon in a new variety, Asgrow AG4232 brand.

Kenneth Barnes, who farms 4,600 acres with his brother, Lynn, and son, Jeremy, in Obion County in northwest Tennessee, planted Asgrow AG4232 brand for the first time in 2012. About 90 percent of his soybean acres are Asgrow brand soybeans, with about 800 acres specifically in Asgrow AG4232 brand.

Like the other Tennessee producers, this is the first time he’s noticed 5-bean pods. “It’s not unusual to see three or four, but this is the first time I’ve seen five beans on one pod,” says Barnes, who reports another observation: “This one stacks nodes really well.”

At the first of October, Barnes had harvested 30 percent of his soybeans, and yields ranged from 40 bushels to 60 bushels per acre.

Nearby, Matthew Gray who farms 2,700 acres with his father, Guy W. Gray, plants about half the acreage in dryland beans and half in corn, followed by wheat. “We farm creek bottom land, and 90 percent of our operation is no-till,” says Gray. 

While he plants a variety of beans including Pioneer, Asgrow and Dairyland, the Asgrow AG4232 brand covers more acreage than the others. “This is my first year planting the Asgrow AG4232 brand. The amount of beans per plant seems like it’s doubled from what it used to be,” says Matthew Gray.

He planted the Asgrow AG4232 brand in one of the driest spots on his ground and reported nearly no rainfall for the season. While he did install two pivots in 2012, none of the ground was irrigated during 2012. He reported planting almost three weeks earlier than usual. “It’s the earliest I’ve ever planted.”

Gray followed with a fungicide application during late R3, early R4. He received just enough moisture during germination.

“They came up great and we got only one-tenth inch of rain at the time they were filling pods,” says Gray. They began harvesting the beans in mid-September with yield averages in the 50s. 

“We’re looking at several places to plant the Asgrow AG4232 brand next year, especially in an area called Hoosier Valley, just outside of Union City,” says Gray.

In Lake County, Tenn., Ed Sumara farms the flatlands between Reelfoot Lake and the Mississippi River with his son, Joseph. Of his 1,000 acres of beans, Joseph planted 200 in Asgrow AG4232 brand. “It’s the first year we’ve planted it,” says Joseph. “We decided to plant it because it did well in all the UT trials.”

Planting 160,000 seed population in early May on no-till ground, Sumara says the crop progressed with little trouble. “This one was pretty uneventful. It came up uniformly with few weed issues. It marched through like a soldier.” Only the three-cornered alfalfa hopper posed a threat. “That’s what really alarmed me but we sprayed with an alcohol-based insecticide from Loveland.”

When he began harvesting the beans on his family’s 100-year old farm in early October, the crop still looked good.

Sumara’s father has been the scout for the county for years and has never seen a 5-bean pod. That changed recently.

“The agronomist found it,” says Sumara. For now, it appears the bean’s full potential is yet to be realized.

“It’s impressive. One of the issues we had is finding a soybean that will put on more beans. This plant does this very well. The thing about this plant is we consistently see 3 and 4 beans in the pods. I’ve never seen another variety with this yield potential.” 

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