We all may be attracted to headlines about new,
groundbreaking research that promises to help us raise better soybeans. Illinois
soybean checkoff investments also help demonstrate how research results can be
translated into our own fields to enhance our production potential.
One such recent research project is known as the “Six
Secrets of Soybean Success.” University of Illinois researchers Jason Haegele
and Fred Below set out to better understand how six specific practices interact
to increase yields.
Six test plots in four locations in Illinois were part of
the multiyear study funded in part by the Illinois soybean checkoff. What
Haegele and Below found is that by combining six basic management practices,
they could boost soybean yields by as much as 10 bushels per acre.
Even used individually, they determined farmers could boost
yields 2.1 to 4.3 bushels per acre. Specifically, farmers should:
1. Mitigate weather with healthy soils and early season
protection to promote strong roots that can help relieve environmental stresses
such as drought or heat;
2. Improve soil fertility through balanced crop nutrition
and by utilizing fertilizer placement technologies;
3. Maximize genetic yield potential by selecting varieties
that respond to increased management in your region. Soybean varieties of
similar maturity can vary by as much as 20 bushels per acre when evaluated at
the same location;
4. Protect yield potential and maximize seed fill with
foliar fungicides and insecticides;
5. Enhance seed emergence and vigor through the use of
fungicidal, insecticidal and plant growth regulator seed treatments; and
6. Use narrow row spacing for maximum light interception and
optimized fertilizer placement strategies in corn-soybean rotations.
Other U of I researchers have approached exploring yield
potential from a slightly different angle, examining the effects of planting
date, row spacing and foliar fungicides on yields at four test plot sites over
What they found was that in 2010 and 2011, yields were
highest from soybeans planted in April. Yields were lower in soybeans
experiencing planting delays into May.
However, in 2012, late plantings yielded more than early
plantings in dry locations, while early plantings yielded more bushels in wetter
Researchers also compared yields from 15- and 30-inch rows
at the four sites between 2010 and 2012. On average, the 15-inch rows provided a
1.8-bushel-per-acre yield increase.
Varied seeding rate studies for two years found that 100,000
established plants per acre were enough to maximize yield. The research also
showed foliar fungicides applied in some sites in 2012 provided yield increases
where little foliar fungal disease was present.
In a separate U of I checkoff-funded study, researchers
applied foliar products — fungicides, insecticides, growth regulators,
micronutrients, macronutrients or herbicides — to plots in Monmouth and Urbana
for two seasons.
Results indicated that few products caused consistent yield
increases, which researchers say may confirm the value in choosing practices or
inputs most likely to relieve deficiencies under existing conditions.
Finally, another project confirms weeds are a top
yield-limiting factor that should be managed with an integrated approach.
Herbicide-resistant weeds are a growing problem.
To help farmers manage weeds, a new checkoff-funded tool kit
shows, by county, which weeds are resistant and what materials — listed by
chemical class and sites of action — may not provide effective control.
The “WeedMap Tool Kit,” available online and via mobile
devices, also features a photo gallery showing common waterhemp, horseweed and
palmer amaranth in different growth stages to make weed identification
Take a closer look at research information found at
www.ilsoy.org/isa/profitability and put checkoff-funded research to work in your
fields. Have a safe planting season.