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Best Management Practices to Consider When Planting Soybeans this Spring

Apr 27, 2018

Although research shows earlier planting dates typically improve soybean yields, Mother Nature had other plans this spring, with extended cold and wet weather conditions delaying planting for many South Dakota soybean growers.

To ensure the best start possible, the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council called upon agronomy experts from SDSU Extension and South Dakota State University to share spring 2018 best management practices based on checkoff-funded soybean research.

“It felt like winter was never going to end, and I’m sure many of us are itching to be out on the field. However, I strongly suggest farmers practice patience and check their soil temperature and moisture before they start to plant either corn or soybeans,” said Péter Kovács, Assistant Professor of Precision Agriculture Cropping Systems in Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science department at SDSU.

Kovács referenced research which recommends a planting depth of 1 to 1.5 inches and soil temperatures of at least 54 degrees Fahrenheit as the ideal soil temperature for planting soybeans.

Soil temperatures can be determined by measuring the seeding zone in the morning (7 a.m.) and afternoon (3 p.m.) and then averaging the temperatures.

“Even though we may feel that we are getting a late start to planting, based on the previous 5 years, we are not behind – yet,” Kovács said. He reminds growers that historically, mid-May was when South Dakota growers typically planted soybeans. “The soil still needs to warm up and dry out to be able to plant, which will take time.”

Improve yields with these steps
While you are waiting, check your planter. Breakdowns can cost you money, and most importantly this season, time. “Prior to planting, inspect, clean and conduct needed maintenance on the planter,” said David Clay, Professor Soil Science in the Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science department at SDSU.

This includes singulation mechanisms, gauge wheels and openers, coulters, row cleaners and tires.

Once soil conditions are right, there are a few additional steps soybean growers can take to improve harvest outcomes.

Reduce row spacing: Speed up row closure and reduce yield loss due to competition from weeds by reducing row spacing from the traditional 30 inches.

Treat seed: Planting into cool, wet soils increase the chance for disease issues. “This spring, seed treatments will be beneficial for most soybean growers,” said Connie Strunk, SDSU Extension Plant Pathology Field Specialist.

Pre-emergence weed protection: The same weather conditions delaying planting, may be delaying weed emergence. “With wet, cool soils, weed emergence may be delayed. Once the soils warm up, the weeds will quickly germinate and grow,” explained Sharon Clay, Distinguished Professor of Weed Science in the Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science department at SDSU. “Problems can be minimized by applying appropriate pre-emergence herbicides.”

More information on the recommendations made in this article can also be found in the online guide, iGrow Soybeans: Best Management Practices for Soybean Production. Funded by checkoff dollars through the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, this guide is available as a free download to soybean growers at click on the books option.