December 02, 2023

Increasing demand for soybeans triggers bean on bean acres

MAPLE PARK, Ill. — Chris Gould planted soybeans this year on some of the acres where he grew soybeans last year.

“This is the first time I’ve done this and it’s a combination of getting our logistics and geographical crops sorted out and also to try it, because I wonder with all of the renewable diesel fuel and sustainable aviation fuel, if we’re going to be growing more beans,” said Gould, who together with his wife, Dana, grow corn, soybeans and wheat on their Kane County farm.

“I think we’re going to be growing a lot more beans in the next five to 10 years,” Gould said. “So, we might need to adjust our rotations a little bit.”

Gould did not treat these acres much differently than soybeans planted after corn.

“The only change we made so far is to make sure they have the Cadillac seed treatment, so we’re protecting the plant as well as we can,” he said.

Spraying fungicide and insecticide is a typical practice for Gould. However, he is starting to think about that due to the dry conditions.

“That’s going to be a game-time decision this year, but on those bean on bean acres I’ll probably do at least 200-some acres to see if it helps,” Gould said.

Planting this spring started a little later for Gould than he prefers.

“I’d like to start planting beans on April 15,” Gould said. “We did plant a couple hundred acres on April 12 to 14, but we really got started on corn April 29 and 30 and then did the bulk of planting from May 3 to 10.”

“It was not significantly late and we had good conditions with a few nice rains and then it stopped raining,” he said.

Gould maintains about a 50-50 corn and soybean rotation across several thousand acres.

“We have about 150 acres of winter wheat that traditionally was for manure and biosolids,” Gould said.

“It appears the wheat is going to be early to harvest,” he said. “Usually we plan on July 18 to 20, but I think it’s going to be the first week of July, so we might try to put in some double-crop beans.”

Gould planted double-crop beans on his farm for the first time in 2021.

“Wheat was off July 8, with rain in the forecast,” Gould said.

“We harvested 39-bushel beans, so we tried it again last year,” he said. “We planted beans on July 10, they got a rain and were up and looked great.”

However, there was a frost on Oct. 4 or 5 and the bean plants were singed.

“They only yielded 9 bushels, but I’m not opposed to giving it another shot. If nothing else, it’s a good cover crop,” Gould said.

For his corn acres, Gould plants DeKalb, Pioneer and Wyffels seeds with maturities ranging from 105 to 114 days.

“For beans, we plant Pioneer and we’re heavy on Syngenta because we grow about 1,000 acres of two varieties of seed beans for Syngenta,” he said.

This is the fourth year Gould is growing seed beans.

“One thing I learned is how to operate the combine better,” he said. “And we also had to learn how to store beans — maintaining, adding or taking moisture out.”

Sensors in the bean bins help to manage the moisture of the beans.

“When combining, we have to slow things down and open things up and that tends to result in more pods,” Gould said.

“They can sort the pods out, but the pods collect in one blob and flow down in one blob, which plugs up the bins, so now we’re buying hydraulic-driven finger tools that churn up the beans.”

In addition to raising crops, the Gould operation includes a small trucking company that hauls all the grain from the farm, as well as some additional commercial work.

“We have one flatbed trailer that operates in the Midwest,” Gould said.

He has also managed a farrow-to-wean hog operation that included 700 sows producing 18,000 piglets a year, but he has been out of pig production for two years.

“What really ended it was we had a disease outbreak in March 2020 and the world shut down with COVID, which messed with our buyers’ packing plants,” he said. “We kept breeding for a few more months and then cleaned out in the spring of 2021.”

The buildings have been rented a couple of times since then for local farmers that needed temporary housing for their pigs while they did a remodeling project.

“We’ve got some things brewing for the future,” Gould said.

Along with Chris and Dana, the Gould operation includes five employees.

“I do most of the management and Dana helps me with grain inventory, contracts and reconciling,” Gould said.

“For our employees, we have two operators, two truckers and one maintenance guy, but they are all very good at flexing to whatever needs to be done except for one guy that is our primary sprayer.”

All the employees have a commercial driver’s license.

“We went to great lengths during COVID to make sure everybody had an understudy,” Gould said. “I’m the sprayer understudy, I run the corn planter, another guy runs the bean planter and two of us are combine operators.”

“To me, it makes good sense because the business can’t fail because one guy didn’t show up to work today,” he said. “Our maintenance guy has been with us over 30 years and he fixes everything the rest of us breaks.”

Gould asks a lot of his employees during the spring and fall seasons.

“The rest of the year we give them a lot of paid time off and we try to provide utter flexibility,” he said.

“Our sprayer guy puts in insane hours during the spring and fall because everything is sprayed twice, beans three times and we do some custom spraying, so that’s 15,000 to 18,000 acres a year,” Gould said.

“I always have a big mental push to get done with planting, but spraying and sidedressing are super important that it is done properly and timely,” he said.

“Now it’s done and I can relax — unless beans don’t grow and we have to do it again if we get another flush of weeds before canopy, which happened in 2021.”

Martha Blum

Martha Blum

Field Editor