Who says seed companies don't listen to customers? Beck's Hybrids, Atlanta, issued a 300-bushel challenge to customers after hitting 300 bushels per acre and higher in their 300-bushel plot for the past three years in a row (2007-2009). Customers responded that if it was good for corn, why not do it for soybeans?
"We haven't issued a 100-bushel per acre challenge yet," says Scott Ebelhar, director of research at Beck's location near Ft. Branch, Ind. "But last year we started plots at the various practical farm research locations to see if we could reach 100 bushels per acre. So far the best we've done is 94 bushels per acre in a plot at my location. But we're confident we'll get there,"
Since these plots aren't irrigated, this may not be the year. It could wind up being one of the driest Augusts on record. But Ebelhar says they still hope to learn lessons about what works and doesn't work when it comes to trying to break the glass ceiling on soybean yield. Customers have been holding at 55 to 65 bushels per acre, and while those are good yield, they wonder why they can't go higher, as they do with corn, he notes.
"One key is planting as early as is practical," Ebelhar is convinced. "And I prefer to plant the fullest season variety I think can mature before frost at that early planting date. For us in southwest Indiana, that's a 4,9, for example.
"My theory is that you want to get canopy as quick as possible. That's what sets up the photosynthetic factory. Then you want to take advantage of as much of the season as you can. If you plant a very full season variety early, you're going to get more vegetative growth before it begins to flower. What you want are more nodes, not necessarily just a lot of distance between nodes."
In fact, if soybeans get too tall and storms come along, they're subject to green lodging, he says. Once that happens, the beans typically can't fill the pods as well as they would have otherwise. It's one reason he believes that for full-season, early –planted soybeans, 130,000 seed per acre is better than 200,000 seeds per acre. The story shifts, he notes, if you talk about doublecrop soybeans.