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These common strategies characterized the nine top finalists of the 2012 Wisconsin soybean yield competition:
- The mean planting date was May 12
- The mean seeding rate was 156,000 per acre
- 100% rotated following corn
- 89% used fungicide and insecticide seed treatments
- 67% used seed-applied inoculants
- 67% had row spacing of less than 30 inches
Mother Nature may have a major say in how soybean yields shake out every year, but 2012 state yield contest winners found that variety choice and timely inputs are crucial to putting more bushels in the bin.
"The most important variable that’s key to high yields is variety selection," says Shawn Conley, University of Wisconsin Extension agronomy specialist, who helps coordinate the state's soybean yield contest. "Among last year's first-place (Wisconsin) winners, three of the four varieties planted were highlighted in the Wisconsin Soybean Variety Test Results. Their yields were the result of a combination of good management and favorable environments."
Bahr Farms, owned by Dale and Kevin Bahr, Belmont, Wis., was the top producer in southwest Wisconsin, with 82.6 bushels per acre. After two droughts and some hard lessons on spider mite damage, Kevin visited a neighbor who was a previous NCGA yield winner.
"We’d faced many production challenges. I wanted to pick his brain about fertility and varieties,” Bahr says. “With some adjustments, we were able to achieve 80-90 bushels per acre.”
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He found that getting the soybean crop off to a good and early start is crucial. The Bahrs plant no-till soybeans in 30-inch rows with a corn planter to move residue out of the way. They prefer to plant in April, and protect the seed with inoculants and root promoter to get good early growth before bloom and shaded rows by the end of June.