You could learn something from Mike Andrew. He says drilled soybeans still perform better than soybeans planted using other methods on his farm in Ohio County, Ind., near Rising Sun. He seeds most of his soybeans with a Tye no-till drill each year.
So, is the lesson you might learn that you should drill soybeans instead of planting in 15-inch rows? Not necessarily. In fact, people in other areas have found no difference between the two methods, or even the opposite. Many contend that with split-row, 15-inch soybeans planted with a planter, they achieve better spacing. They typically also can seed at a lower rate, saving on seed costs.
Most of the soils where Andrew farms have a fragipan relatively near the surface. This hard, dense soil creates drainage problems in many cases. It can affect how crops, especially soybeans, react to various tillage systems.
As long ago as the 1980s, Don Griffith, a Purdue University Extension agronomist who’s now retired, discovered that at the Southeast Purdue Ag Center near Butlerville, no-till drilled soybeans performed surprisingly better than any other planting and tillage combination. The difference wasn’t just a bushel or two per acre — it was significant. And it was a much larger difference than he found in similar testing in other parts of the state.
That discovery helped fuel no-till drilling of soybeans in southeast Indiana. The soils there are similar to what Andrew farms.
The lesson Andrew has learned is not just that drilled beans work better for him. It’s that he knows they yield better. He continues to compare them to 15-inch planted beans every year. And although it’s not in a replicated study, he’s convinced that since he’s seen the same results over time, the results are real.
“I have a John Deere 7000 split-row planter, and I get it out every year and plant some soybeans with it,” Andrew explains. “I try to have split-row and drilled beans in the same field.
“Every year, the split-row soybeans planted with the planter pop up and look good. They look good all year, and you think they’re surely going to be better than the drilled beans just by appearance.
“But when you get the combine in the field and start watching the yield monitor, the drilled soybeans always yield more. It’s enough to notice, and it holds up year after year. On my soils in my part of the state, drilled soybeans still yield better than 15-inch-row beans. And that’s even accounting for the fact that the drilled beans aren’t probably spaced as evenly or may not come up quite as uniform.
“I want to see the numbers on the yield monitor. Those numbers keep telling me to continue drilling.”
Try any practice you want to consider on your own farm — don’t take someone else’s word for it. That’s the real lesson. Agronomists say replicated trials are best. They also say that testing over time matters.