NuTech Lead Agronomist Brad Johnson explains why planting your soybeans early might make sense this year.
Back when I first started working with farmers, everyone used to choose their planting dates based on the calendar. Corn always went in first, followed by soybeans in early May. But every season, we get smarter, and research tells us that early soybean planting can have some real advantages come harvest. Here are things to consider when weighing your early planting options for soybeans.
It can really pay off at harvest. Research over the past several years has shown a yield advantage for early-planted soybeans. With longer time in the field, soybeans can collect more Growing Degree Units (GDUs), which equates to more vegetative growth and internodes. And that can lead to better yields.
Advanced seed treatments make early planting less risky. We relied on the calendar so much in the past, because you couldn’t guarantee a stand if you planted in April—the seed just couldn’t take it. But seed treatments have come a long way, and today’s products do a great job protecting the seed.
At NuTech, for example, soybeans get a three-part treatment:
- LumiGEN™ seed treatments featuring Lumisena™ fungicide seed treatment is the newest technology in the marketplace and it provides really excellent phytophthora protection. We pair this with EverGol® Energy seed treatment fungicide, which protects against pythium, rhizoctonia and fusarium.
- L-2030 R biofungicide, which is exclusive to Corteva Agriscience™ seed brands like NuTech.
- Gaucho® insecticide seed treatment manages secondary pests, including bean leaf beetle and soybean aphid.
Even without the additional potential yield advantage with early planting, these treatments alone can help boost yield by anywhere from 1–4 bu/A, depending on the disease susceptibility of your fields.
It all comes down to soil conditions. Instead of watching the calendar, my advice is to watch the environment and your soil conditions. Typically, we get one good window for planting—and sometimes we don’t even get that! It’s tempting to focus on the forecast for planting day, but especially if you’re going out early, make sure you’re checking the 5–7-day forecast. It could be late March, but if the next week’s forecast shows below normal precipitation, above-normal temperatures and your soil temps are pushing 50 degrees at least four hours a day, go ahead and plant your beans. On the flipside, if you’ve got a beautiful, warm early-spring day that’s about to be followed by a week of rain and cold, keep your planter in the shed. You want at least a 5–7-day window of favorable conditions to get your early planted soybeans off to a strong start and ensure emergence.
If you’ve got the equipment, plant in parallel with corn. If you’re like a lot of the farmers I work with, you probably have dedicated planters for corn and soybeans, so it’s possible to be out planting both crops simultaneously. We never know how long Mother Nature’s going to cooperate, so if the conditions are right, go for it. And if you’ve got variable conditions between your plots and your bean fields are ready first, don’t shy away from getting soybeans in even before corn.
Leverage the advantages of Enlist E3™ soybeans. I sometimes work with growers who will wait to plant because they’re not seeing weeds yet, and therefore can’t do a burndown. If you put down a residual, then plant, you risk escapes. Now you’re stuck coming in with a post-spray sooner than you’d like—at a higher cost.
If you’re planting Enlist E3™ soybeans, however, you can go ahead and plant when the conditions are right and still come back any time those weeds start to appear and spray burndown with Enlist™ herbicides. Because Enlist E3 soybeans are tolerant to 2,4-D choline in Enlist herbicides, you won’t damage your soybeans. There are also no plant-back restrictions with Enlist E3 soybeans, so if you have a good window to do your burndown and then immediately plant, you can get out there and get it done.
Today’s soybean varieties can better withstand the pressures of early-season planting, and with the extra insurance of effective seed treatments, you can feel comfortable getting your soybeans in the ground sooner. Just keep an eye on those soil conditions and the forecast and, if the time is right, go for it and enjoy those extra yield benefits in the fall.