"The other tip is to be on the high end of fertility with P and K. Soybeans like old fertilizer. Put it on a year ahead and give it time to break down in the soil," he says.

Bahr also scouts at least once a week for insects and other pests. He does his own spraying with a self-propelled sprayer, and includes micronutrients with herbicide and fungicide applications.

The micronutrients pay for themselves, he says. “We have field averages in the high 60s to 70 and get 80 bushels per acre on the sweet spots."

Micronutrients have also become a favored management strategy for Dan Arkels, Peru, Ill., who raises corn and soybeans along the Illinois River. He topped the Illinois soybean yield challenge in the 2012 drought with an average 80.16 bushels per acre, and has won in previous years, too. Arkels planted in 30-inch rows.

"I planted for the competition last year in a high fertility field. I decided to follow the same course of action with all of my soybeans this year,” Arkels says. “My beans were armpit-high and loaded with pods in June. They yielded extraordinarily well; 25 bushels more per acre than the rest of the area. It is absolutely cost-effective to use these products and gain 20-25 bushels."

He applied N to his soybeans: 75 pounds per acre split between preplant and sidedress. He believes the preplant application contributed to yield gains. He aerially applied a foliar-applied micronutrient mix called Harvest Maxx, which includes manganese, N, sulfur, boron and zinc; plus StollerUSA BioForge to enhance plant growth and yields.

"Last year was the first year I tried all of these products. You don't know until you try new things what might boost your yield," he says. "The days of one spray and you're done are over in soybeans. You need to work with a local crop adviser and be willing to try new products."