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Soybean planting basics

Planting is the most critical management period for soybean production. Below, we’re sharing five basic tips for successful planting.

1. Select and plant only the best varieties

Not all soybeans are equal. Each year, seed companies sell soybean seed with a wide range in yield potential. Typically, the best-yielding varieties produce between 20 and 40 percent greater yields than those at the bottom. Don't get stuck with a dud.  

Carefully make your initial selections by using third-party yield information, and only accept substitutions with proven yield potential.

2. Correct low-testing soils

Carefully evaluate soil test results. Soybeans typically can use residual phosphorus and potassium from a well-fertilized, previous corn crop. However, if you're unsure about fertility levels, conduct a soil test in the spring.  

Once planted, it's too late to fix deficiencies. Despite renewed attention to this old topic, do not apply nitrogen to soybeans. Nitrogen very rarely increases soybean yields and it’s extremely rare to see economic returns.

3. Plant early

Although delayed planting is likely in most areas, plant as early as possible – but only into good soil conditions. Avoid planting with extreme cold and wet weather in the near-term forecast or in extremely dry soils.

4. Plant in narrow rows

Soybeans planted in narrow rows will outyield those planted in 30-inch rows or wider. You can expect approximately 5 percent of yield advantage for every 10 inches of narrowing, down to about 10 inches.

If your field has a history of white mold, you can still plant in narrow rows, but carefully manage the populations.

5. Don't trust a post-emergence-only herbicide program

Including pre-emergence herbicides into an overall weed-management strategy provides a wider window for mid-season applications and allows more options for weed control.  

Reduce short- and long-term risks by using herbicides with diverse modes of action.

6. Be safe

The springtime rush often brings long working hours. Avoid taking additional risks wherever possible.

Seth L. Naeve, Extension agronomist

Reprinted from the United Soybean Board News

Reviewed in 2018

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