It’s mid-February as I write this, and soybean harvest is just getting going in southern Brazil. By the time you read this, harvest will be going wide open all over the country.
First reports are coming in, and the soybean crop appears to be big, the possibility of it being a record 68.5-70 million metric tons (mmt) is pretty realistic. There have only been a few minor hiccups up to this point with almost zero reduction in production estimates.
Brazil’s soybean crop this year will mark an increase in production from 32 mmt in the 1999-2000 season to 68-70 mmt this year.
Drought reports in Argentina have grabbed headlines; but when looking at the actual moisture level in comparison to past years, it’s within a few inches of normal. The speculation that the South American crop would be short is just not true.
White mold is an issue again this year and it will rob some top-end yield, but unless something changes by mid-March, this crop will be all but made.
It’s easy to talk about how good the overall soybean, corn and cotton crops look this year in Brazil. One thing that is making things easier is more readily available biotech crops. Five years ago, it was a real feat to grow115-bu./acre corn; today dryland corn yields of 180 are common.
YieldGard, Bt and now Roundup Ready allow people to do a better job and raise better yields, reducing applications during the growing season here from 12 down to five.
Soybeans however are lagging behind from two things: technology traits and the management mindset from most of the producers growing them. Granted, we have new soybean technology in the U.S. and in Brazil, and that’s a help. But it’s also a hindrance.
The help side is weed control and management ease, but yields aren’t increasing on their own. The hindrance part: Too many people plant beans, spray with Roundup twice and maybe once for aphids (in the U.S) and come back with the combine. The attention or focus of trying to raise bigger soybean yields has been lacking.
This planting season, consider these ideas to improve your management mindset and yields:
1) Don’t expect to grow 70-bu. beans without the proper fertility. You need roughly a unit of available phosphorus (P) and roughly 1.3 units of available potash (K) for a bushel of beans.
2) Try adjusting your population, and see what’s a good fit for your ground. Just planting 160,000 plants and calling it good isn’t going to teach you much, try some plots at different populations. Don’t be afraid to “plant outside the box.”
3) Use a seed treatment to help with vigor, root building and nodulation.
4) This is the most important: Do something differently than you did last year.
Times in agriculture are as exciting now as they’ve ever been, so I would encourage all producers to take 1-2% of your acres, and try some new production techniques. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Most of us fit into that category, but we don’t have to. Who knows, you might just learn something new.