DES MOINES, Iowa – While state and national corn yield contests inspire a passionate following, there currently is no yield contest for soybeans. Pushing soybean yields to the upper limits of genetic potential is, however, gaining attention among soybean growers. And, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., is encouraging soybean growers to test the concept of maximizing soybean yields by conducting their own personal yield contests.

“Growers are often surprised to learn that soybean yield improvements, on a percentage basis, have nearly kept pace with the 1.5 percent annual yield increase corn has seen,” says Jody Gander, agronomy research manager with Pioneer in Princeton, Ill. “To help growers realize the yield potential of today’s soybean genetics, we’re encouraging them to conduct their own on-farm yield contest on a 5- to 10-acre plot to see what yield level they can achieve as their personal best.”

Based on three years of Pioneer Agronomy Sciences research in soybean management, Pioneer has developed a list of management tips growers can use to help maximize their soybean yields.

“Knowing the production issues of each field, selecting appropriate varieties, managing pests, having adequate fertility and many other factors impact soybean yields,” Gander says. “By following these guidelines, growers can see for themselves how far they can push yields in their own on-farm plots.”

Gander offers these tips:

  • Choose a field that has not been in soybean production for two or more years (to reduce diseases that build up over time.)
  • Select a highly productive, well-drained field (to reduce occurrences of Phytophthora root rot, sudden death syndrome (SDS) and other root diseases).
  • Conduct soil tests to determine P, K and lime needs and presence of soybean cyst nematode (SCN).
  • Consult with professionals to select the best soybean variety for your field. Consider yield, maturity, standability, disease resistance and other traits important for your specific locality.
  • Use fungicide-treated soybean seed to help ensure full stand establishment. Apply a sterile-carrier soybean inoculant to promote good inoculation.
  • Plant using the appropriate planting dates for the variety and for your area.
  • Plant soybeans in 7-inch or 15-inch rows. If white mold may be a problem, use 15-inch rather than 7-inch rows.
  • Scout newly emerged soybeans for bean leaf beetle feeding or other insects and treat if needed to prevent stand and yield reduction. Scout for BLB throughout the season.
  • Control weeds early to prevent competition with the soybean crop. Consider a fall herbicide application if winter or spring annual weeds are often a problem.
  • Scout for soybean aphids and treat if necessary. Treatments applied between mid-July and early August have been most effective in research studies.
  • Closely monitor soybean drying for a timely harvest. To avoid shatter losses, combine soybeans the first time seed moisture drops below 13 percent to 14 percent.
  • Be sure combine is carefully adjusted and operated to avoid threshing losses.
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