If you no-tilled soybeans this year, which about 60% of all soybean acres were no-tilled, likely into corn stalks, and you thought they got off to a particularly slow start, you're not alone. Many people say their no-till soybeans hard hard just to get moving and growing this year.
In fact, Tony Vyn, a Purdue University Extension tillage specialist, says no-till soybeans took it on the skin compared to other tillage choices this year. Keep it in perspective however. The last time no-till fields struggled mightily was in 1988, still the king of all droughts- so far.
Vyn isn't sure why no-till soybeans were so slow getting going this spring, but he suspects it may have something to do with coming out of a mild winter where the soil didn't freeze and that much, if at all. He believes that left the soil tighter and harder for roots to penetrate.
Shaun Casteel, Purdue University Extension soybean specialist, says that all soybeans, no-till or not, got off to a slow start. Fields planted early had plenty of moisture to establish themselves well. Later planted soybeans, after mid-May, struggled to find enough moisture to emerge. Some of those fields have thin stands because a lot of the seed didn't emerge. That's true for both no-till and conventional tillage.
While it appeared that the soybeans were sitting still, however, Casteel says they were putting down deeper roots. Aboveground growth came slow, but plants put down roots. The biggest drawback was that the vegetative cover and canopy didn't close as fast. There wasn't as much leaf area to capture sunlight and produce vegetative growth as there is in normal years. Even if soybeans get ample moisture to recover now, he says that they are likely to be a couple nodes short per plant by harvest. If beans are shorter and have fewer nodes, they likely won't hit maximum yields.