By Connor Lynch
KEMPTVILLE — Ontario producers would’ve been forgiven for expecting truly terrible soybean yields last year. But as the numbers rolled out, many producers, including OMAFRA’s soybean specialist, Horst Bohner, were surprised to see some of their best yields ever, in some cases as high as 80 bushels/acre.
Last year’s bizarre weather and the latest crop research helped guide the path to 80 bu/ac soybeans, which Bohner was happy to share at the Eastern Ontario Crop Conference at Kemptville on Feb. 12.
While it’s true that August rains helped pump up yields, that’s far from the whole story. Producers can set the stage for superb yields, but they’re counting on very particular weather in the spring and summer to finish them off. Without that weather, going from 50 bu/ac beans to 80 can be done, “but it’ll cost you money hand over fist,” Bohner said.
He then offered his top five tips to squeeze out more bushels per acre.
• Establish even plant stands and seed early with a full-season variety. In some research trials, early planting with a long-season variety saw yield boosts as high as 7 bu/ac. If you aren’t getting those results, odds are your variety is too short-season, you’re not planting early enough, or both, Bohner said.
If you’re in a high-yield environment, you want fewer plants per acre; but a dry year can prove disastrous if your seeding rate is low. Seed rates around 165,000/acre should be a safe bet, he said. Soybean plants shouldn’t be touching each other since it makes them much more prone to disease.
• Control for diseases, insects, and nematodes. Obvious, but is a three-pass fungicide system necessary? Not definitively, though in some trials, combined with urea application, yield boosts were 3.5 bu/ac, though Bohner cautioned they were small trials. He added that urea needs more research, since some trials with urea actually saw yields decrease, albeit only slightly.
• Feed your soybeans. Potassium (in the form of potash) is a very important nutrient for beans, and, according to some agronomists, is often in short supply in the soil. It’s directly correlated with pod set, one of the biggest factors in final yields, said Bohner. Phosphorus, however, is equally important, he said. A soil test is the easiest way to see if you’re short on either. A combination of fertilizer application and fungicides, in some trials, saw yield boosts as high as 6 bu/ac.
The final two factors are up to the weather.
• Soybeans do better when they suffer in the early season. Ontario’s dry weather reduced incidence of white mould and root rot, and the plants put down deep roots in search of water. Those deep roots set up strong stands, as well as meaning the plant wasn’t wasting energy growing taller.
• August rains finish beans off perfectly. With deep roots and available water, the plants take in tons of nutrients and fill up pods and hang onto them.