Our soybean yields on a new rented farm were way off from what we expected. What is the first thing we can do to help yield? We have it rented for two more years. The landowner isn’t sure when it was soil-tested the last time.
The Indiana certified crop adviser panel answering this question includes Steve Gauck, regional agronomy manager for Beck’s, Greensburg; Andy Like, independent crops consultant, Vincennes; and Dan Ritter, agronomist with Corteva Agriscience, Rensselaer.
Gauck: Do you feel the low yield was due to weather issues, soil compaction or soil fertility? We can’t do anything about the weather. Go out now and try digging old roots. Look for signs of soil compaction. You can also use a soil penetrometer. You may need to do some fall tillage or sow cover crops to help eliminate soil compaction layers.
Also, has the field had soybeans in the last three years? If not, did you inoculate the soybeans to increase nodulation? If these issues are all OK, you need to look at soil fertility. To understand where to start improving the field, soil tests need to be taken this fall. This will give you time to evaluate the issues in the field and take steps to improve them.
Start with pH since it drives the soil activity. There is still plenty of time to apply lime, even if you must wait until spring. This is one of the most neglected but important factors to soil productivity. Next, look at your basic soil fertility levels and decide how you want to apply fertilizer for your situation. Look for ways to apply fertility that are efficient for your farming practices.
Like: The first thing to do would be to collect soil samples and find out what the pH and soil fertility levels are on the farm. If the landowner isn’t sure when the last samples were taken, it has likely been neglected for some time. So, expect pH and soil fertility levels to be low. I would fix low pH levels with lime prior to spending money on additional fertilizer.
Secondly, I would discuss this problem with the landowner prior to making a large investment in lime and fertilizer. I would hope you could rent the farm over a longer time period to help recoup the money spent fixing low pH and soil fertility issues. If the landowner is unwilling to work with you on this, you may consider walking away from the farm to pursue more productive land.
Ritter: The first items to check off the list would be a good soil test as well as a test for soybean cyst nematode. I would also suggest you review your yield maps. There may be telling information gleaned from the map data.
Other considerations would be the inherent productivity of the soil. Even though farms may be close in proximity, the soils and productivity can be different. Other questions to consider: Were the soybeans of the same variety and maturity to those you were comparing yields? Did you notice any diseases such as sudden death syndrome or sclerotinia white mold?