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Soybean seeding rate affects how plants react later in season

Soybean seeding rate affects how plants react later in season
The same variety looks different depending upon population.

Jason Gahimer wanted to make a point when farmers visited his test plots. He had planted soybeans in 15-inch rows at three seeding rates — 110,000, 125,000 and 140,000 seeds per acre. Before people arrived, he went into each plot, picked plants at random and hung them upside down on a wooden stand, side by side. The demonstration would have talked for itself, even if Gahimer hadn’t said a word.

SEEDING RATE MATTERS: These soybeans are the same variety, but they were planted at three different populations. Seeding rates were (from left) 110,000, 125,000 and 140,000 seeds per acre, respectively.

Gahimer is Beck’s Practical Farm Research data and logistics manager. But the two things that really get him excited are seeing how different practices play out in plots and later in whole fields, and explaining these new ides to farmers. Michael Baird, a Beck’s seed representative, joined Gahimer in talking about the quest for 100-bushel soybeans at field days this summer.

Management matters

One test Gahimer typically includes in soybean plots is a comparison of soybean seeding rates. Beck's was one of the first companies to suggest lower seeding rates than what farmers were traditionally planting. Nearly a decade ago the company began talking about rates in the 130,000-to-140,000-seed-per-acre range as the best range for commercial fields.

If you’re going to reduce rates from the 160,000 to 180,000 population many people used to plant, and some people still do plant, it takes good management and attention to details, Gahimer says. One practice that has shown up as effective in the PFR plots is early planting. Early-planted soybeans tend to flower earlier and yield more when compared to mid-May plantings over several years, he notes.  

Gahimer and Baird are also believers in a complete seed treatment package that includes fungicides, insecticides and some biological products. “Our soybean seed comes standard with Escalate seed treatment,” he says. “It’s part of the package that allows us to offer free replant for seed if it’s necessary.”

Seeding rate matters

The seeding rates compared in this year’s plots included 110,000, 125,000 and 140,000 seeds per acre. When Gahimer pulled plants and displayed them, the differences were obvious.

"There was definitely more branching at 110,000 seeds per acre,” he observes. “The 125,000 seeding rate was sort of in the middle on the amount of branching.

“By the time I got into the 140,000 plot, there was definitely less branching. When we pulled them out and compared them, it was obvious. When stands are thicker, the soybeans have less room to branch.”

What counts, of course, is pods per plant and final yield. The plots will be taken to harvest, Gahimer notes. Look for results by visiting Beck’s website this fall. Once all of the PFR data is compiled, usually in December, it’s made available for free in printed form, and is also posted on the website.

TAGS: Management
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