Early planted soybeans continue to garner traction in the countryside. Many growers have experienced significant yield increases compared to historical planting dates of mid-May or later. Advancements in seed treatment technology allow growers to plant earlier with greater success. While not guaranteed, key management decisions can increase the likelihood of success with early planted soybeans. Below are tips that can tip the odds in your favor.
The Right Planting Conditions
Optimal soil and weather conditions are essential for a successful soybean stand. Monitor soil temperatures along with the 7–10-day forecast to predict if conditions will be conducive for soybean germination and growth. Ideally, soil temperatures above 50⁰F are desirable. If soil temperatures are in the upper 40s and the 7–10-day forecast indicates a warming trend, successful stands are possible. Soil water temperature in the first 24 hours of germination is critical as seeds immediately take up a significant amount of water. If soil water is below 50⁰F, imbibitional chilling can take place, causing disruption in cell organization as the seed re-hydrates.
Tillage plays a role in soil temperatures, with tillage or strip-till systems leading to warmer soils due to sunlight absorption. Should a freeze event occur, heat exchange from the soil can provide protection to seedling soybean plants. Soybeans at emergence (VE) to cotyledon (VC) growth stages can tolerate cold temperatures around 30⁰F. Plants become more sensitive to cold temperatures once they reach the first trifoliate (V1) stage.
The Right Soybean Variety
Reviewing a soybean variety’s disease ratings can help prioritize which ones will perform better under certain conditions. Prioritize targeting varieties with superior emergence, sudden death syndrome (SDS), and phytophthora ratings, along with proven yield. Disease pressure can be slightly elevated during the early planting timeframe. Using a variety 0.5 MG longer than what is typically used often results in more yield at earlier planting dates. This is attributed to plants’ extended time in the reproductive stage, increasing the number of pods produced during favorable weather.
The Right Seed Treatment
Using a seed treatment with multiple modes of action against phytophthora and Pythium helps protect emerging plants. This compliments the genetic disease tolerances that a specific soybean variety has. Early in the season, few growing degree days accumulate, increasing the likelihood of emerging plants encountering cold and wet conditions. We have observed a 14-bushel advantage with Burrus PowerShield® treated soybeans compared to untreated at late-March planting dates. Our SDS seed treatment increased yield 7 bushels over base treated soybeans during this same period. Also note our SDS seed treatment provides early-season protection against the first two generations of soybean cyst nematode (SCN). This is crucial as nematode populations have developed resistance to PI88788 which comprises 95% of all genetic SCN resistance in the market.
The Right Planting Population
Soybean planting populations have been trending lower compared to 10 years ago. Populations at 130-140K and 115-125K per acre, under ideal environmental conditions, for 15″ and 30” row widths, respectively can achieve good yields. The goal is to get final stands greater than 100K per acre to obtain maximum yield potential. It is important to use high-quality seed and review germination percentages to adjust seeding rates appropriately. Early planting allows the soybean crop to get a head start before summer annual weeds germinate and start competing. Risk of soil crusting with early planting is reduced as lower ambient temperatures keep the soil surface pliable after rainfall.
Let our team at Burrus make your 2022 early planted soybean crop even better. We can create a full-season crop plan that starts with the right seed product on the right acre. Our free replant policy ensures you’ll have successful stands regardless of the challenges Mother Nature may throw at you. With the Burrus team, our recommendations consider every aspect of growing season variability and product input decision making. We look forward to visiting with you this spring.