Foliar protection from insects and diseases is one of Dr. Fred Below's 'Six Secrets of Soybean Success.' (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
NORMAL – Farmers attending the Illinois Soybean Profitability Summit had the opportunity to learn the “Six Secrets of Soybean Success.”
The research by Dr. Fred Below, professor of crop physiology at the University of Illinois, highlights management practices that point to high yielding soybeans. Many are familiar with Dr. Below for his “Seven Wonders of the Corn Yield World” research. Below outlines the six factors important for soybean yield this way:
1 – Weather
Soybeans like different weather than corn, so the good news is that farmers can still have a high soybean yield even when weather is not good for corn.
2 – Soil fertility
Soil fertility is extremely important because of how growers are fertilizing, or not fertilizing, their soybeans.
“Largely they’re putting two years of fertilizer off a head of corn and hoping that some of it is still there for the soybean plant to scavenge,” said Below. Below said many producers believe potassium is the leading element that limits soybean yield, but it is really phosphorous and nitrogen.
“Soybean mines the soil for N. Each additional bushel takes a pound of N out. It’s not that you get one for each bushel, it’s that you take one away,” Below explained.
3 – Variety
“Farmers put a lot of attention in their corn variety but not enough in their soybean,” Below said. He believes choosing the right cultivar is vital to success.
4 – Foliar protection
The soybean plant has 19 nodes with pods. The leaf at the closest node supplies energy for pods and beans at that node. Keeping that leaf active longer has a big impact on seed weight. That’s why foliar protection from insects and diseases is important.
5 – Seed treatment
Below focuses on plant protection and believes a full package of disease, insect and nematode protection.
6 – Row arrangement
This concept is about intercepting light more quickly and about air movement throughout the canopy. Below’s research compares the use of 30 and 20 inch rows for planting.
“By knowing those individual things, when we put them together then we can take advantage of additive synergies,” said Below. “Again when your plant is properly fertilized, then the value of that seed treatment or the value of that crop protection is even greater.”
Below said it’s important for farmers to realize that a system approach is necessary.
“As researchers, we tend to look at one or the other and we separate our research. But farmers have to use a production system, which we ultimately believe is going to be a high yield corn system, followed by a high yield soybean system. Such a systems approach will allow us to take advantage of the synergies from the previous crop,” he said.
Below realizes most farmers prefer growing corn and make more money on that crop, but he also believes if farmers could routinely get yields of 70-75 bushels of soybeans, there would be no reason to grow continuous corn.He said farmers should manage soybeans like they manage corn. If they try new things as they strive for high yields, he believes the soybean plant will respond.
Below spoke at the Illinois Soybean Profitability Summit on Mar. 4 in Normal.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at email@example.com.