Ross and fellow researchers want to know how to approach the whole package. “On top of that, we tweak things – eliminate certain things – to see if there’s a yield bump.

“From the first three years of this project, the largest yield bump came from narrow-row spacing and also late-season – R3/R5 – fungicide applications.”

In early September, “we’re starting to see some late-season diseases,” says Ross. “Frogeye is beginning to pick up. SDS is also very bad this year, state-wide. So far, we haven’t had to treat the plots for insects.”

The state’s soybeans “are kind of split,” says Ross. “Draw a line from Pine Bluff to Stuttgart to Helena. Everything around there and south looks very good -- the beans took advantage of the cooler conditions in July and August.”

Unfortunately, north of that line, things aren’t as consistent. “Some fields look pretty good but there are also some late-planted fields that are shaky. North of Jonesboro, where there has been a bunch of rain, the poor fields are much more prevalent. About 10 days ago, I got a call on a 40-acre field -- right at R3 -- that went completely underwater.”

Has Ross seen greater producer willingness to adopt practices proven by research?

“The last couple of years, many producers have been going twin-rows, where they’re narrowing up the 38-inch row spacing. Others have gone to air seeders, trying to get across fields quicker.

“That also helps with weed control, covering up the middles.

“It seems every five years, or so, there is a wave of new techniques that are tried. Producers will buy a new planter and shift to different row spacings and things like that. Folks are willing to try all kinds of things to bump yields, especially in soybeans.”  

Currently, Ross is collaborating on a Newport Station plant architecture study with weed specialist Bob Scott. “What beans work better on narrow rows? What beans work best on wider rows? We selected two Group 4s and two 5s – ones with more erect architecture versus bushier. Then, we have three seeding rates -- 110,000; 150,000 and 190,000 – along with row spacing at 15 inches, 30 inches and 38 inches.”

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 The pair has evaluated those all year on weed pressures. At the end of the year, they’ll check yield differences.

“Right next to them, though, we’ve got weed-free plots. Not only have put out the herbicides, we’ve also hand-weeded. That will provide a weed-free check versus beans in a more conventional program.”