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Adjust planter and drill settings to handle big soybean seed

Adjust planter and drill settings to handle big soybean seed
Expect usual soybean varieties to have bigger seed and fewer seeds per pound this year.

If anyone out there is still selling soybean seed by the pound, this season may underscore the reason why many companies have switched to selling soybean seed by count instead of weight. Varieties which normally have 2,800 seeds per pound, for example, may only have 2,600 per pound, or maybe even 2,400 per pound. If you're shooting for a target population in numbers, that can make a big difference.

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Bigger soybean seed: When soybean planters roll, many in 15-inch rows, many will be planting bigger seed than usual.

Steve Gauck, agronomist for Beck's Hybrids in southern Indiana, says that across the industry, many soybeans with individual variety are bigger in size this year compared to normal years. The quality is very good, meaning germination scores are trending on the high side. But the seed itself is bigger than usual.

Why would that be? Think back to 2014, especially in August. Many areas in Indiana received timely rains for soybeans for the first time in four or even five years. So yields were higher. Yields were higher partly because individual soybeans were larger. The plant could pack more into each seed because it had the necessary moisture to keep going, and had the signal from its control center to pack in as many nutrients per seed as possible.

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Some fields were shut down by sudden death syndrome or other diseases. So it's not a one-size-fits-all answer. But in most cases, seed size tends to be bigger this year.

So if you plant 150,000 seeds per acre and your variety normally has 3,000 seeds per pound, your normal target seeding rate is 50 pounds per acre. If there are only 2,700 per pound this year because of bigger size, this year you would need 55 pounds of seed to get the same number of seeds.

The other issue will be getting drills and planters to plant larger seed correctly, Gauck says. It will be important to stay alert and make sure you are getting the number of seeds per acre that you want, he concludes.

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