Survey being conducted to help Michigan soybean producers identify and overcome yield gaps

Michigan soybean producers have the opportunity to help researchers and agronomists identify and overcome barriers to higher soybean yields by participating in a volunteer survey.

Photo: Mindy Tape, MSU

Photo: Mindy Tape, MSU

Editor’s note: The survey deadline has been extended to March 31, 2017. See “Deadline extended to March 31 for 2016 Soybean Benchmarking Survey” for more information.

Project overview

Soybean yield increases in Michigan and across the North Central United States have not kept pace with those of crops such as corn, wheat and sugarbeets. Producers, researchers and agribusiness agronomists are aware of this situation. However, the specific yield-limiting factors responsible for the creating the yield gaps (difference between attainable and actual yields) are not fully understood. The most common approach to identifying yield-limiting factors has been through the use of well-designed on-farm and small plot research projects. While the information collected from these projects has increased our knowledge of some of the yield-limiting factors, it has not identified all of them or provided enough information regarding soil and weather effects to develop reliable recommendations for overcoming them and narrowing yield gaps.

An alternative or complementary approach for identifying soybean yield-limiting factors has been successfully implemented in Nebraska. The project collected information about yields, crop inputs and management practices for specific fields from producers across the state. The researchers were able to obtain this information from 516 fields between 2010 and 2012. The large amount of information gathered from representative fields enabled the researchers to identify individual crop inputs and management practices that significantly affect soybean yields.

The Nebraska project was so successful, the North Central Soybean Research Program has provided funding to expand the project in states throughout the North Central region. This means Michigan soybean producers will have the opportunity to supply yield and management information about their fields that will be used to generate specific recommendations for achieving higher soybean yields in the future. The project also includes a benchmarking aspect enabling participating producers to confidentially compare their soybean yields and management practices to those of other producers across Michigan and identify specific opportunities for fine-tuning their management practices to close the yield gap on their farms. A brief preliminary report on the project summarizing information collected from 2015 and 2016 is available at the Michigan State University Field Crops Team Soybeans webpage.

How to participate

In order to generate meaningful results, Michigan State University Extension will need to collect field-specific information about yields, crop inputs and management practices from at least 200 soybean fields across the state each year from 2014 to 2017. Participation in the project is voluntary and all information will remain confidential. A survey was recently mailed to nearly 1,200 randomly selected soybean producers. My hope is that these producers and others in the state will complete and return the survey so we can generate recommendations for producing higher-yielding soybeans.

Producers who have not received the survey and would like to participate in the project can do so by reading the survey form instructions and then filling out the survey and mailing or faxing it in. The current survey form asks for information from four fields where soybeans were produced in 2016. If you’d like to print out the survey and fill it in by hand, then download and print the 2016 Soybean Benchmarking Survey - Print Form. If you’d like to fill out the form online using a computer, then download the 2016 Soybean Benchmarking Survey - Fillable Form, and print it when complete. You can also contact me at 269-673-0370 ext. 2562 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I will provide you with some brief instructions and the survey form. Please return the completed form by fax, 269-673-7005, or by mail to 3255 122nd Ave., Suite 103, Allegan MI 49010 before March 15, 2017. For more information, read the survey form instructions.

Again, your participation in this important project is voluntary and all the information you provide will be kept confidential. The information from all the surveys will be used to identify yield-limiting factors, their interactions with soil and weather conditions and opportunities for increasing soybean yields in Michigan.

Incentives for taking the survey

I realize that completing the survey will take some time and effort, so as an additional incentive, producers that provide all the requested information and return surveys before March 15, 2017, will be entered into drawings for either a $500 or $1,000 prepaid credit card. Producers that complete the survey for two fields will be entered into the drawing for a $500 prepaid credit card. Producers that provide all the requested information for four fields will be entered into the drawing for a $1,000 prepaid credit card. Only one survey form can be submitted per farm.

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 MSU Extension and the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee.

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