Soybean producers should be patient yet prudent about the wet weather

Waiting for good soil and weather conditions and making plans for speeding up planting operations will benefit soybean producers.

The frequent and heavy rains caused soybean planting delays in Michigan, and some producers are feeling the pressure. It seems like this is a good time to remember that 2016 was also a challenging planting season, yet we produced record soybean yields in the state. The table shows the 2016 soybean planting progress in Michigan.

Soybean planting progress in Michigan

Date

2016

2011-2015 average

Percentage planted

May 9

7

12

May 15

14

28

May 29

70

64

June 5

88

80

June 12

95

93

Source: USDA – Economics Statistics and Market Information System

I want to encourage soybean producers to be patient and avoid fitting or planting your fields when the soil is too wet. These scenarios can increase the potential for soil crusting and sidewall compaction, and both conditions are detrimental. However, I also want to list some opportunities for speeding up planting operations this spring and urge producers to identify their own.

Eliminate or reduce tillage operations

If the soil surface is level and your planter or drill is equipped to plant through the existing residue, consider planting without additional tillage. This practice has the additional benefits of eliminating the risk of tilling the soil when it is too wet and conserving soil moisture if dry conditions occur later this spring or summer.

If herbicide-resistant marestail has been a problem, the field should be tilled or sprayed with an effective burndown prior to planting. Also, remember that Liberty is the only effective post-emergence herbicide option for multiple-resistant marestail.

Planting speed

Unless you have a planter that was originally built for higher speeds or have modified the planter for higher speeds by installing seed belt delivery equipment and hydraulic down pressure, significantly increasing your planting speed much above 5 to 5.5 miles per hour is not recommended in most situations.

Consider eliminating starter fertilizers (pop-up and 2-by-2)

Starter fertilizers (pop-up and 2-by-2) have a low probability of increasing soybean yields and profitability when soil test phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) levels are above the critical levels and maintenance rates of P and K have been or will be applied. In Michigan on-farm trials, pop-up fertilizer was profitable at two of eight locations and 2-by-2 starter fertilizer was profitable in five of 18 locations.

Increase planting capacity per day

If you can’t increase your speed, you have two alternatives for increasing soybean planting capacity: operate existing equipment for longer hours, or lease a drill or air seeder and hire additional labor to operate and tend it. The first option will require planting in shifts and may not be feasible when planting into heavy residues, as the evening dews will make the stalks tough and harder to plant through.

Inventory and rank your fields based on planting order

Not all fields will be ready to plant at the same time. There are three factors that determine this: soil texture, drainage (tile or surface) and amount of precipitation received. Most producers know which fields are likely to dry out first based on texture and drainage. However, rain events are often localized and this should be considered also.

Waiting for good soil and weather conditions to occur and making plans for speeding up planting operations will benefit soybean producers this spring.

For more information

This article was produced by the SMaRT project (Soybean Management and Research Technology). The SMaRT project was developed to help Michigan producers increase soybean yields and farm profitability. The SMaRT project is a partnership between Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee.

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