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Do you have enough soybean plants?

Soybean Watch: Stand quality is still an issue in early June 2024.

Tom J. Bechman, Midwest Crops Editor

June 7, 2024

3 Min Read
An orange Hula-Hoop in a soybean field
STILL ENOUGH PLANTS: There are only nine soybean plants within this hoop. That translates to 80,000 plants per acre. Is that enough? Steve Gauck, Beck’s agronomy manager, says it is. Tom J. Bechman

Steve Gauck breathes a sigh of relief whenever he can tell someone they have enough soybeans for top yield. He has held his breath more than once this spring. Wet soils for planting and hard rains have proven less than ideal for soybean emergence.

Fortunately, Gauck reports, he has breathed that sigh of relief often. Gauck is a regional agronomy manager for Beck’s, sponsor of Soybean Watch ’24.

“Stands aren’t always as good as they look from the road, and several growers have expressed concern,” he acknowledges. “There was some replanting, often related more to flooding than crusting and poor emergence.”

In many fields, Gauck came up with an average stand of 80,000 plants per acre or better. “If you have 80,000, without huge gaps and weeds, we recommend leaving it,” he says. “Our experiences indicate that replanting or thickening won’t pay.”

In fact, Beck’s Practical Farm Research long-term results averaged over multiple locations and multiple years indicate that with 80,000 soybean plants per acre, there is still potential to reach maximum yield. “There is indication you can get by even at 70,000,” Gauck notes. “As you drop from 80,000 to 70,000, however, the decision isn’t as clear.”

Soybean Watch field

The Soybean Watch field was planted May 12 at 140,000 seeds per acre, no-tilled into cornstalks. Heavy rain followed. After rolling a Hula-Hoop at random in a dozen spots, there was an average of 11 plants per toss.

Related:Control weeds early to protect yield

Using the table in the Purdue University Corn and Soybean Field Guide, with an inside hoop diameter of 30 inches, the average was 98,000 plants per acre. “We would expect more in a normal season, but it is way above our 80,000 target,” Gauck says. “There should be no reason to worry about the stand.”

What if you only rolled once and found the stand pictured above? There are nine plants within the hoop. “You’re just over 80,000, which is still enough,” Gauck says. “That’s why you roll several times. You want a good picture of the field.”

From the field: Assessing soybean stands

The checkerboard rainfall pattern of 2024 shows up in reports around the country. Here is a sampling from across the Midwest.

In Iowa. “In southeast Iowa, there are early-planted soybeans and soybeans still being planted. Scattered planting dates brings challenges for spraying and growth staging plants. We’re spending lots of time evaluating stands. Quite a few fields were planted in marginal conditions, and it affected emergence.

“On the plus side, we’ve had a few sunny days, and soils are drying out, with more oxygen getting into the soil. This should get soybeans that are up off to a good start, with nodules forming soon.” — Greg Shepherd, Beck’s field agronomist

In Wisconsin. “Earliest-planted beans from late April are only at V1 due to cool, wet weather. Many fields were slow to emerge. We’re flirting with stands that are thin enough to consider replanting or adding to the original stand, but most are just good enough that they don’t warrant that action.” — Joey Heneghan, Beck’s field agronomist

In Nebraska. Soybean planting reached 80% by May 28, behind last year but near the five-year average of 81%. However, emergence at 41% is well behind 2023 at 61% and the five-year average of 49%. %. — USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service

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About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Midwest Crops Editor, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman became the Midwest Crops editor at Farm Progress in 2024 after serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer for 23 years. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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