Ask about anyone in July in Indiana and they would have told you that if they had crop insurance, they would likely be collecting for soybeans this year, especially if they had revenue insurance. Fast forward to today, and word from crop insurance adjusters is that a few people will have claims, but not nearly as many as expected in mid-season. Part of that is because soybeans rebounded in many areas far more than most people thought possible.
Related: Dry months threaten soybean yields
How did that happen? Shaun Casteel, Purdue University Extension soybean specialist, lays out his theories in Soybean Success, which will appear in the December issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer. Here is a preview of the story.
"The 2015 growing season in many areas followed this recipe," Casteel says. "It included soil compaction from 2014 harvest, scant amount of fertilizer, soil temperatures less than 50 degrees F even in May, forced tillage and/or plantings, heavy-handed amounts of water after planting, poor stand establishment, root death and delayed nodulation, late application of herbicide and no sunshine. Those ingredients were only through June and July!
"Online reviews of this recipe card wouldn't have a single star rating. Soybean growth was very limited, which is a two-edged sword. We want to build a factory to harvest sunlight, but we're not in the business of selling leaf biomass. The early steps of this recipe card kept soybeans compact with no room for excess growth."
Casteel notes that although soybeans appeared to be shortchanged in yield potential heading into July and August, Mother Nature helped them reverse their fortunes.
The short and compact soybeans balanced the supply and demand of plant sugars, he observes. Soybeans retained the few pods they had with little loss during seed fill, and most pods were completely filled with seeds, thanks to moderate temperatures with ample soil moisture.
Nodule regeneration delayed N fixation, which likely helped retain leaves later in the season.
Sunshine became abundant in late August and September with warm temperatures. Soil moisture started to become limiting, but a timely splash of rain here helped many fields finish off good yields, he concludes.