John Ingram knows the math. Big soybean yields at historically high soybean prices can produce cotton-like gross revenues. That's a lot of potential income, so he's not going to let the stress get to him or the crop.
That approach, plus nearly perfect weather for soybean production, led to some bin-busting yields for Ingram in 2003. He averaged over 50 bushels across 2,800 acres, including one 430-acre block of irrigated sandy loam soil that cut 91.3 bushels.
He points out that many of his neighbors also rang the bell on yields, with many cutting around 80 bushels on some fields. But Ingram's 90 bushel yield on one field was extraordinary proof of what can happen when everything comes together in a soybean crop.
Ingram made sure he did his part, supplying the crop with plenty of water and fertility and timely fungicide and pesticide applications.
In the fall after harvest, Ingram puts down his “vitamins” — ample levels of potash and phosphate. This past fall, Ingram met with his fertility consultant, Clinton Pettiet of Pettiet Ag, in Leland, Miss., to discuss what to put down in 2004, knowing that last year “drew a lot off the land.”
They are again aiming for maximum yields, pumping phosphate and potash levels to medium-plus levels.
After fertilizing, Ingram runs a TerraTill, a bent-leg subsoiler with coulters, about 12 to 14 inches deep. “You can run it through fairly trashy conditions. It breaks the land, and there are buster shanks on the back which throw your rows up.”
He runs the rig every other year on his heavy clay soils and every year on mixed and sandy land. Each year, he'll run a hipper to shape up the rows. He'll drag off the beds and roll them to create a wide bed for twin-row planting.
He'll run his water furrows, then “about 45 days before planting I burn everything down with Roundup and 2,4-D. I'll go to the field with nothing but two Great Plains eight-row twin-row planters.”
There are several advantages to the twin-row concept, according to Ingram. “Those beans will lap quickly (the middles are 31 inches apart). You hold moisture and your weed control is better.”
The twin rows are planted on 7.5-inch spacings on top of beds 38 inches apart. Staying with 38-inch rows means that Ingram can shift to another crop like corn or cotton if the market for those crops looks good.
For twin-row soybeans, “I try to plant 50 to 55 seed per side, per 10-feet of row. Last year, I planted about 138,000 to 139,000 plants per acre.”
Some of Ingram's beans, about 400 acres on clay soil, are planted single row on 19-inch spacing using a 23-unit planter built by Ingram's father, who is now retired. The huge rig is aptly named Big Bertha and can plant about 350 acres a day.
The two twin-row units together can plant 350 acres per day. “So when I get ready to pull the trigger, it doesn't take me long.”
Last year's bin-busting variety was Asgrow AG 4403. This year, Ingram has planted Asgrow Roundup Ready varieties AG 4201, AG 4403, AG 4603 and AG 4902, and some Dyna-Gro beans, DG 3443 RR under irrigation and a DG 3463RR on dryland fields.
Seeds are treated by UAP with Apron Maxx and Allegiance. If the weather permits, he'll start planting the first week of April.
In 2003, Ingram went with one or two glyphosate applications on his soybeans, all by air. “We put out a pint and half of Mirage Plus when the beans were about 10-inches tall. Four or five days later, we went with two ounces of Resource for velvetleaf and another half pint of Mirage Plus. There wasn't a weed in the field after that.”
On the 430-acre block that yielded so well, Ingram put out a full rate of Quadris plus Karate for stink bugs by air right before pod stage, which cost about $20 an acre. Stink bugs were only at 40 percent of threshold, but again, Ingram didn't want the crop to stress by giving the pests a toehold. Meanwhile, the Quadris “gave me a higher test weight and a bigger bean.”
Three weeks later, Ingram made another application of Karate for stink bugs, at 40 percent of threshold.
Some of his chemical applications this year will be made with two sturdy, hooded sprayer rigs he built this spring to reduce drift and improve chemical coverage. He used a skill saw to cut a piece of plastic culvert in half lengthwise, inserted air injection tips and attached it to a toolbar. He removed an end off a plastic barrel and cut it in half to block the ends of the hood.
When the rains finally backed off last year, Ingram started irrigating and never let the crop stress for water. “I don't believe in keeping the soil mucky, but I kept the moisture at about 6 inches.”
Ingram also reduced the nozzle pressure on his center pivots to get more of a rain effect during irrigation, instead of a mist, which is subject to evaporation loss. “I can speed the pivot up and reduce engine time, which helps with the diesel costs, too. When that big pivot makes a round, it's 800 gallons of diesel fuel.”
Ingram harvested the crop with two John Deere 9600s. He didn't have yield monitors on the machines, but he knew something special was happening as he cut the 91-bushel block.
“I was keeping up with the tickets and calling my nephew at the elevator. I was thinking my calculator wasn't working right and wanted him to add up the numbers.”
The 430-acre block cut 39,260 bushels, an astonishing 91.3 bushels per acre. “If I could have watered the corners, I could have yielded more,” Ingram said. “We might have hit the 100-bushel mark. I'm definitely going to rig up something and water them this year.
“All in all, it was about as perfect a bean year as a man could want,” Ingram said. “I put the phosphate and potash out there just like I was going to raise a cotton crop or a corn crop.
“The beans were planted the first week in April. The rain was timely, almost perfect, and we took over with irrigation when the rains stopped. We never gave the stink bugs a foothold.
“We had cool temperatures at pod set. You couldn't have asked for any better year. It's like this, though. God is the one who is going to do it. I'm just there to help.”