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Purdue University Soybean Specialist Shaun Casteel says planting dates greatly affect soybean yields, but he believes what really holds back soybean yields is the way many farmers think of their soybean crop.
“We really need to think about soybeans as intentionally as we do about corn,” he says. For a lot of farmers, soybeans are “just the second crop” compared to corn, he explains.
“There’s this longstanding perception that beans come after corn,” he says. “If we want to improve soybean yields, we have to think about them at the same level as we do corn.”
Casteel echoes Watters’ statements about the importance of covering the basics, but he adds a good foundation as a starting point. To him, “intentional soybean management” includes starting with the soil.
“I always start with, ‘What are your soils capable of producing?’ I see so many fields that have pH and potassium issues,” he says.“(Basic fertility) should not be a limiting factor.”
Also, farmers should know what they have in terms of soil pests, such as SCN and diseases.
“Growers can maximize their soybean yields by taking the time to look at varieties’ yield potential and yield consistency.”
Last, but not least, scouting is a farmer’s best tool for finding yield-robbing diseases and pests before they become unmanageable.
Additionally, while Missouri soybean farmer Kip Cullers, who set the soybean yield record of 160 bu./acre in 2010, receives a lot of attention for his yields, soybean farmers need to look at their investment in terms of dollars as well as time to decide what will work on their farm.
“Kip does myriad mini experiments,” Casteel says. “He dreams up various management scenarios and tests them. Those are all interesting and fun to experiment with, but you have to put it in light of what’s profitable.”
Tullis admits it’s hard to determine a return on investment for his efforts until he has more history on his production practices, but he’s determined to keep trying. “It’s become a bit of an obsession,” he admits with a laugh. “I want that 105 bu. again.”