Ask any soybean grower and he will admit that learning how to lift yields to a higher plateau takes more than marking notes in a field notebook. Even though genetics for this crop continues to improve, producers are relying on smarter management and better production methods to achieve success.
Seed treatments, growth promoters, tissue sampling, stepping up fertility, applying an insecticide with a fungicide and how chemical packages interact could make a difference but it is tough to know the right combination. However, all too often Mother Nature holds the trump card and is the deciding factor in any given growing season.
“During the past few years producers are tackling the challenge of improving their bean crops in the Badger State. For 2015, contest entries increased 5% while overall yields were up 15%,” says Shawn Conley, the University of Wisconsin-Madison soybean specialist, who oversees the state’s soybean yield contest.
Farmers searching for high-yield soybeans share a common personality trait: curiosity. It’s a quest that that takes them to some unusual agronomic places. That philosophy is what is required to go beyond average to extraordinary.
Successful building blocks
Planting soybeans by the end of April or first week of May, keeping tabs on fertility, along with grid soil sampling every three years and relying on tissue analysis were the critical management steps that propelled Bahr Farms Inc., to the champion spot in the 2015 Wisconsin Soybean Association Yield Contest. The farms entry in Division 4 was 89.23 bushels per acre, which was 4.26 bushels higher than their winning total in 2014.
“Our 170-acre field that included the contest plot, had been planted to corn the past three years,” notes Kevin Bahr of Belmont, who farms with his son, Daniel, his brother, Dale, and his father, Donald Sr., who started the operation. “The Tama soil type in this area features high levels of organic matter, well suited for soybeans. “We really bank on that ground because in three out of the past four years (no entry in 2013) we’ve ranked first in the district with more than 80 plus bushels per acre.”
They no-tilled Asgrow 2535 soybeans into 30-inch rows with a 16-row John Deere 1770 featuring Martin Sweep row cleaners at 155,000 plants per acre. Herbicides used included Durango (Dow AgroSciences’ Roundup) at a burndown rate of 24 ounces teamed with 0.375 ounces of Synchrony. A foliar feeding of Smart Trio and 32 ounces of Durango per acre went on at the V4 leaf stage. That was later followed with another foliar feeding that included a mix of Stoller products and Priaxor at 4 ounces per acre.
“With this crop it’s imperative that several items must mesh together to achieve a good yield, especially later in the growing season,” Bahr adds. “To gain consistent results, we work closely with Ryan Temperly, agronomist at Ross Soil Service in Mineral Point. He provides assistance when making product decisions, by scouting for diseases and keeping us abreast of the proper rates and timing with chemical and foliar feeding applications. As plant genetics continue to improve, I think reaching 100 bushels per acre is not that far away.”
Fungicides fueled results
Craig Oehmichen of Abbotsford claimed first prize in Division 2 with a yield of 79.72 bushels per acre. The total was considerably higher than Oeh My Farms five-year average of 60 bushels per acre.
The Clark County Farmer relies on conventional tillage and follows a rotation of corn, alfalfa, oats and soybeans. However, the previous crop for his 10-acre plot featuring Loyal silt loam consisted of winter ryegrass. Asgrow 1431 soybeans were planted in early May at a rate of 200,000 plants per acre in a 7-inch spacing with a John Deere 450 grain drill. The moisture content at harvest was 17% with a final stand of 170,000 plants per acre.
For his preherbicide treatment Oehmichen applied Authority First at a rate of 5 ounces per acre. The postemergence pass was 32 ounces of Roundup Power Max at 32 ounces and Classic at .33 ounces per acre. While common lambsquarters and Yellow nutsedge can create problems the plot remained weed-free. His seed treatment consisted of Quick Roots plus Optimize combined with Trilex/Gaucho. The foliar feeding program was 2 quarts of Smart Trio per acre while the fungicide treatment included 4 ounces of Stratego YLD per acre at the R2 growth stage.
I felt several factors contributed to reaching nearly 80 bushels per acre. These included: planting early with a high yielding late maturity variety, preparing a good seedbed, a solid preemerge weed control program, monitoring for pest infestations, timely fungicide treatment and harvesting early,” he says.
“After figuring total input costs, I gained an additional $144 more profit per acre between the contest and non-contest beans,” he adds. ”Next season I plan to pay closer attention to the crop during the growing season because it should result in a bigger payoff on the bottom line.”
Ideal growing season
This was the first year David Wilkens and his wife, Karen, entered the soybean contest. The Random Lake enterprise topped Division 3 with 77.15 bushels per acre. That number was 26 bushels above the 5-year bean average on his total of 135 acres.
To boost yields, 290 pounds of 7-13-32 mixed with 5.2% sulfur was applied per acre on April 30. His preemerge herbicide package included 1 quart of Class Act Flex, 2 pints of Prefix and 22 ounces of Roundup Max per acre. An application of Roundup Power Max at a rate of 22 ounces per acre was sprayed on July 2.
The 30-acre plot consisting of Hoahkim silty clay loam soil followed a crop rotation of winter wheat, soybeans and corn the previous three years. On May 8, he no-tilled NK S20-T6 brand beans with a 15-row Kinze 3500 planter in 15-inch rows with a final stand of 155,000 plants per acre. Seed applied inoculants were Warden CX and Tag Team LCO and foliar feeding included 1.5 quarts of Max-In Manganese on July 2. Beans were harvest Oct. 12 at 10.5% moisture.
“Planting early following the cereal crop, adequate moisture and a near perfect growing season with very little disease pressure were the deciding factors for achieving over 77 bushels per acre,” Wilkens says. “My son, Steven, who is employed as a fulltime agronomist off the farm encouraged me to enter the contest. Although I believe we have a solid, overall growing program currently in place but after seeing these results it only makes sense to think about pushing beans a little harder.”
Rainfall improves production
Another first year entrant in this year’s contest was David Lundgren from Amery. The family operation, which includes his wife, Dawn, sons, Jake, Blake and Joe, along with his father, Dareld, won Division 1 with 75.6 bushels per acre, 35 bushels above the farms five-year average.
Their selected variety, Cropland R2C1494, was planted April 25 at a rate of 138,000 to 141,000 seeds per acre in 30-inch rows with a 12-row John Deere 1760. The 52-acre plot, featuring an Antego silt loam soil and planted to corn the past three years, was harvested in late Sept. at 12.7% moisture. Lundgren noted there were 45 to 60 pods per plant.
To control light pressure from dandelions, a few broadleaf weeds and some grasses, Lundgren applied 1 quart of Roundup and 1 pint of Class Act herbicide in mid-May. His foliar feeding package included Max-In Ultra Manganese and Max-In Boron.
The Polk County farmer points out that certain individuals and area businesses were instrumental in helping him obtain a lofty yield average. For example, Tim Meres, regional agronomist at the Country Side Coop in Milltown has monitored seed and fertility requirements the past five years. At harvest, Kim Oden and Gary Ganage, measured the plot for his official contest entry.
“Thanks also go to Frontier Ag & Turf in Turtle Lake for their support with parts and equipment needs on our farm and furnishing the John Deere S660 combine to harvest the plot,” he says. “I wanted to share my success with the community so will be donating of portion of our cash prize to the Amery FFA Chapter.”
Besides early planting for soybeans, we rely on soil and tissue testing, managing micro nutrients, running over fields with a land roller, removing as many cornstalks as possible and no-tilling,” he adds. “Receiving adequate moisture was the payoff for a bumper crop last year. The overall average yield on 180 acres was 62 bushels per acre. Figuring a contract price of $9.18 our profit total was $180 per acre. With beans there is no substitute for walking fields and putting a human eye on any problems that may pop up.”