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 three years.

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 locations.

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 easier.

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.