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Consider equipment changes with lower soybean rates

TAGS: Planters
blue tractor pulling tillage implement in field
TILLAGE MATTERS: How you set up your soybean planter depends upon your choice of tillage.
Soybean Corner: What changes should you make to the planter if you are lowering seeding rates?

By Tom J. Bechman

I’ve been in 30-inch-row soybeans, but I bought a split-row planter to plant 15-inch-row beans. I want to go to as low a seeding rate as practical to save seed costs. It’s a conventional planter without aftermarket equipment. Should I add row cleaners, special closers or other things to ensure good germination?

The Indiana certified crop advisers panel includes Danny Greene, Greene Ag Consulting, Franklin; Andy Like, agronomist, Amvac, Knox County; and Jeff Nagel, agronomist, Ceres Solutions Cooperative, Lafayette.

Greene: First, I would make sure planter units are dropping seed uniformly. Have planter units tested and worn planter parts replaced. Uniform seed drop and placement are priority. Even emergence will improve weed control management, especially if seeding rate will be reduced. Seed firmers will help keep seed in the bottom of the trench, and are worth considering to get desired placement and seed-to-soil contact. 

Your tillage practices and soils may have an impact on additional attachments. Floating row cleaners and coulters set properly can help prepare the strip to plant, reduce trash interference and should help soils warm quicker. Closing wheels and drag chains are often added to move and firm soil over the slot. 

Like: The first thing to consider would be the tillage system you currently use. No-tilling soybeans into heavy residue can pose stand establishment problems, so you may be wise to add row cleaners to ensure good seed placement and germination. Aftermarket closing wheels can be helpful if you intend to plant when the soil is wetter than ideal. If your intentions are to use conventional tillage, many times a standard planter setup is good enough.

Nagel: Several farms have been reducing soybean seeding rates. Most research suggests soybeans achieve near maximum yields with harvest populations, not seeding rates, around 100,000 to 125,000 plants per acre. Seeding rates need to be higher to achieve adequate stands.

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