Considerations for planting soybeans early

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

There is an increasing interest in planting soybeans early. This article summarizes the risks and benefits of early planting. Specific management practices for early planted soybeans are also provided.

One of the biggest advantages of early planting is that it provides a longer planting window for attaining maximum yields. Data from the University of Wisconsin and The Ohio State University indicate that beans planted on May 1 will yield about seven bushels per acre higher than beans planted during the last week of May. Beans planted during the last week of April have produced slightly higher yields than those planted on May 1. University agronomists have also found that the newer soybean varieties are more tolerant of adverse, early-season conditions than older varieties.

The primary risk of early-planting is that the beans will be damaged by freezing temperatures. This risk is mitigated to some degree by the fact that germination is delayed under cooler soil temperatures. Soybean tissue is also more resistant to freezing temperatures than corn tissue. Typically, temperatures must reach 28°F for damage to occur. There is also risk that soil-borne diseases may damage soybean seed planted into cool soils. Sudden death syndrome and bean leaf beetles are also more likely to attack early-planted beans.

If you decide to plant soybeans in the last week of April, you should consider the following recommendations.

Don’t plant unless the soil is dry enough to support equipment. Shallow soil compaction will haunt you the remainder of the growing season.

Plant seed that has been treated with a fungicide.

Plant high quality seed.

Till the field or clear the residue away from the row to allow the soil to warm up faster and reduce the likelihood of frost damage.

Plant in fields at higher elevations with good air drainage to reduce the likelihood of frost injury.

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