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What’s the secret to 100-bushel soybeans?

The secret may not be so secret: Just follow the basics.

Tom J. Bechman

December 6, 2023

2 Min Read
dried-down soybean plants full of pods in the field
FOCUS ON BASICS: Doing whatever it takes to promote more nodes and pods and bigger bean size sets the table for 100-bushel soybean yields, says Shaun Casteel with Purdue Extension. Tom J. Bechman

Have you reached 100 bushels per acre in soybeans yet? As a whole-farm average? On a single field? On a single pass? Has your yield monitor displayed 100 bushels per acre on an instant readout? More growers are reporting this kind of success. If you haven’t seen triple digits yet, what is the secret to reaching this milestone?

Shaun Casteel crossed the 100-bushel-per-acre yield plateau for a treatment average in a research trial for the first time in 2023. One treatment in a sulfur trial at Purdue’s Agronomy Center for Research and Education, or ACRE, near West Lafayette, Ind., came in at 101 bushels per acre. Casteel is the Purdue Extension soybean specialist.

“There really is no secret to it,” he says. “Rather, I believe it comes down to doing all the basics correctly, paying attention to detail and getting an assist from Mother Nature in the weather department.”

With drought early and again late, the 2023 season may not seem suited to reaching yields of 100 bushels per acre.

“Timing was favorable in many areas,” Casteel says. “There were times suitable to get the crop planted in the spring, weather was good for emergence, and there was ample moisture during the critical reproduction phase in mid- to late August. Many growers would have welcomed another rain in late August or early September, but soybeans planted early were far along by then.”

Casteel points to the “secret,” which isn’t a secret: “Do the basics and minimize stress on plants as much as possible all season long,” he says. “That should maximize the number of nodes, which means more pods, and helps increase soybean size. Achieving more yield means growing more pods with larger beans inside.”

Key ingredients to soybean yields

According to Casteel, here are the basics for achieving high yields in soybeans:

Plant early. “Be ready to plant in mid-April if soil conditions are right,” he says. “In our sulfur trial, yields for the May planting and yield gains for sulfur were like past years on similar soils. We saw the biggest gains ever and topped 100 bushels per acre when we finally had the opportunity to plant in mid-April.”

Get soil fertility right. Just like corn, soybeans need correct pH ranges and adequate soil fertility levels. “We’re finding more so all the time that for many soils, adding sulfur may be part of that essential soil fertility program,” Casteel says. “Test for sulfur response in your fields. Leave check strips so you can determine if sulfur truly improves yield or not.”

Select good genetics. Doing your homework on soybean varieties is one of those basics many take for granted. Do it, paying special attention to comparisons on disease tolerance and resistance for key soybean diseases in your area, Casteel advises.

Add good treatments. If you’re planting early, seed treatment is highly recommended, Casteel says. “We are most concerned about making sure the seed treatment package includes fungicides for key diseases in your area,” he concludes.

About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman is editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer. 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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