By Wendy Sweeter
In the last few years, a Lennox, S.D., farmer has increased his soybeans yields with a one two punch.
Dave Poppens plants not only soybean cyst nematode resistant varieties, but also sudden death syndrome tolerant varieties. His yields used to average 40 bushels per acre. Now they are pushing 50 bushels per acre. See Web Exclusives at
"A few years back we had a spot that died off and tried to identify it but wasn't really sure what it was. It could have been some of that sudden death syndrome," Poppens says.
The decision to plant SDS-tolerant beans came after hearing about the disease appearing in their area. As for the SCN-tolerant soybeans, they have tested for SCN and know they have some in their fields.
Poppens says planting these varieties have made some improvements in yield.
"I think it's helped to increase the yields from what we had before," he says. "Because yields vary so much with the weather conditions, some of it's more of what we're seeing on the yield monitor."
That monitor was reading around 40 bushels per acre a few years ago, Poppens says. This fall they had readings in the high 50s.
According to USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, soybean yields in Lincoln County averaged 20.2 bushels per acre in 2012. In 2008, it was 39.5 bushels. The five-year average for Lincoln County is 37.22 bushels, with the best year being 2009 with 46 bushels per acre average.
At OK Corral Inc., they plant about 60 percent of their acres to corn and 40 percent to soybeans. In addition to their crops, they have a feedlot for 1,000 head.
At one of their locations, they have been planting corn-on-corn for 40 years with the exception of some alfalfa planted there at varying times throughout that period. They use over half of the corn-on-corn acres for silage.
Poppens says their management practices on corn have changed over the years to include more stacked hybrids, seed treatments and micronutrients.
"I've noticed in the last three to five years there's a lot of options you can add to your seed as you're planting to help with the growth," he says. "We've tried a lot of different things and try to compare it with the yield monitor to make it easier to compare different practices and see if there's a yield increase or not."
They have been using a seed treatment and have been adding micronutrients like zinc, manganese and sulfur in furrow as they plant.
USDA-NASS shows Lincoln County corn yields averaged 61.2 bushels in 2012 and 153 bushels in 2008. The five-year average was 137.42 bushels, with a high of 177 bushels per acre in 2009.
Poppens says their APH on corn is in the mid-160s. This year they were averaging 175 bushels per acre.
"On the monitor we've had spots in the field over 200, but to have the whole field average 175, we're pretty pleased with that," he says.
Poppens says soil drainage and fertility are likely the biggest challenge for increasing yields in his part of South Dakota. The clay soil in Lincoln County does not drain as well as other soils.
"The corn has done well. We would like to see the bean yields go up," Poppens says. "To get a bean yield over 60 bushels in Lincoln County seems pretty hard whereas other parts (of the state) I've heard some 70 bushels."
Poppens says farmers can only do so much in managing their crops but Mother Nature plays a big part.
"The rest of it's up to Mother Nature and how you're blessed with rain throughout the year," Poppens says. "We try as much as we can, but we can only do so much."
Sweeter writes from Worthing, S.D.