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Yield champs talk soybean success

Grant and Kristen Strom
Root feeding, early planting, narrow rows and less tillage are a few secrets to top yields.

Think different:

Soybean producers who strive for highest yields share at least one similar sentiment – get soybeans planted early. Two top-yielding Illinois farmers contend that the conventional thinking of planting soybeans after you plant corn is wrong. They say to plant soybeans the same day you start planting corn, if you want more bushels per acre.



Illinois farmers Grant Strom and Rick Boyer both topped 90 bushels per acre in the 2016 state yield challenge. Each deals with different soils, but one thing these winners share is keeping some of their secrets to success.

Strom farms in Brimfield, northwest of Peoria. He farms everything from slopes to river bottoms with a conservation mindset. One key to top yields, Strom says, is using a vertical tillage tool in the fall and then in spring he applies a pre-emergent herbicide at planting. He also uses one pass of Priaxor fungicide and Macofoliar by Microsoil.

Another significant piece to his soybean puzzle is tile drainage – to get water away from plants when heavy rains fall on his 20-inch rows. He believes in variable rate seeding, averaging between 130,000 to 170,000 seeds per acre. His high-yield competition fields were planted between 135,000 and 140,000.

Regarding fertility, one thing that Strom says ensures his high yields is taking care of roots. “I’m a firm believer in feeding soybean roots,“ he says. That’s part of the reason why he plants as soon as possible. If the soil is dry with a warm spell coming, he concentrates on planting soybeans. His winning fields in 2016 were planted April 17-18.


Early planting beats SDS

Planting early is one way soybeans can fight disease, which was proven in 2016 as the mid-April planting helped overcome Sudden Death Syndrome. Strom says his goal is to keep the beans healthy and green as long as possible to encourage yields.

A harvest key to success is cutting soybeans at the proper moisture to reduce harvest loss. He uses several small storage bins with fans to aerate soybeans that he cuts at 14 to 15 percent moisture. He markets them at 13 percent.

One thing that soybean producers need to keep in mind is that good yields require a lot of patience. “Soybeans can be very temperamental,” says Strom.

Rick Boyer farms near New Holland, between Peoria and Springfield. His soil types vary from Ipava soils to silt and sandy types with some clays mixed in.

Boyer also relies on minimum tillage, using a non-turbo tillage tool in the spring. Some of his fields are tile drained while others are not. He is also a firm believer in narrow rows – 15 inches with a seeding population of 135,000.


Believer in foliar applications

Foliar applications are another key to Boyer’s management plan. He uses HarvestMax, Invigoron Soy growth regulator and Triad to fight weeds. He also utilizes Ilevo seed treatment to fight against Sudden Death Syndrome, along with Quick Roots seed treatment from Monsanto BioAg. He also uses the fungicide Priaxor from BASF, tankmixed with Leverage 360 insecticides, applied at R1 and R3, two weeks apart.

Another similarity between Boyer and Strom’s record soybean yields is their willingness to get soybeans into the ground very early. Boyer begins planting soybeans when he starts planting corn. This year’s winning yields came from soybean fields planted April 12 and April 13.

Boyer strives to get 1,600 acres of soybeans planted by April 28 every year. He has used this strategy for six or seven years. “The bean yields have been tremendous and I attribute it to the planting date,” he says.

Mother Nature also plays a big role in soybean growth by delivering more daylight when the plants begin to flower.

Regarding fertility, Boyer is reluctant to share his treatment strategy. He says it’s his secret ingredient to producing higher yields, but the planting date is also a key to the magic.

“Get started early, and get it in the ground quick,” says Boyer.

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