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Corn+Soybean Digest

Wild About Wide Beds

Unusually wide beds equate to a healthier, higher yielding soybean crop for Jim Tackett of Schlater, MS.

“All of our soybean acres are planted into a wide-bed system. It enhances everything from irrigation effectiveness to plant health to harvest efficiency,” he says.

Tackett began planting soybeans into 76-in. wide seedbeds several years ago. Initially, he was pleased with the planting system's performance on his heavy, gumbo-type soils. But he found the system imperfect in those fields with lighter, mixed soils.

The water wicked through the rows on the heavier soils, he says. However, the soybeans weren't getting the amount of water they needed on the mixed and lighter soils. To solve the problem, he's since narrowed to 60-in. seedbeds on all of his soybean acreage.

Some of Tackett's soybeans are planted in 30-in. rows with a planter, some in 7.5-in. spacings with a drill and some in 15-in. rows with a planter. But all of his soybeans are planted on wide beds.

“The row spacings I use in a field depend simply on what equipment is available at the time. They all yield about the same and I haven't noticed any differences between row patterns,” Tackett says.

The wider-than-normal seedbeds offer several advantages over conventionally flat-planted soybeans — most noticeably improved drainage and irrigation efficiency, he says.

“Each year at planting time, the early spring rains seemed to flood us out, causing yellowing and stunting of the soybean plants,” Tackett says. “You usually can see a height advantage in the soybeans planted on beds due to improved drainage in the spring.”

He backs up his theory with the fact that he has seen an average yield increase of 5 bu./acre on his wide-bedded acreage vs. his previously flat-planted fields.

Jerry Singleton, an area Extension agent in Greenwood, MS, agrees that drainage is a key advantage to the wide-bed planting system.

“The Delta's flat fields are prone to drainage problems. This system allows better drainage for narrow row planting,” Singleton says. “And of course, better drainage means higher yields.”

Planting into wide beds also improves irrigation efficiency, allows for a more even distribution of irrigation water, and provides ready-made furrows for summertime irrigation treatments, according to Tackett.

“We use flexible plastic pipe and run water down the middle. In a flat planting system, the water meanders through the field and can miss sufficiently irrigating areas of the field,” he says. “Planting on beds helps channel water down through the field from end to end.”

Another benefit of the planting system is that the beds can dry out more quickly during wet, rainy spells in the fall, enabling Tackett to get back in the field to harvest his crop in a timely manner.

Also, planting on beds requires less fuel, energy and tractor horsepower, he says. He pulls a smaller implement through the field, using about half of the tractor horsepower and saving wear and tear on implements vs. a flat-row system.

Tackett tries to rotate between two years of soybeans and one year of rice to help control red rice infestations. But he sometimes alternates fields between soybeans and corn. He uses some stale seedbed and some minimal tillage.

Tackett Farms, which spans Leflore and Sunflower counties in Mississippi, produces soybeans, corn, rice and catfish. Each crop is run as a separate farming operation under the management of Jim Tackett, his dad William Tackett and his brother-in-law Joseph Walker.

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