What is Limiting Soybean Yield?

| February 12, 2018
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OREGON, Mo. — Often growers have told us “I have hit a soybean yield plateau. What can I do to increase yields?” If you feel you are in the same situation, here are some common sense considerations.  Are you planting the latest genetics? Companies are continually working to increase the yield of their seed products.

Secondly, timely planting and I might add, early planting. Early planting allows the plant to have time to grow vegetatively before the photoperiod triggers blooming.

Narrow row spacing adds yield compared to 30-inch row spacing. Averaged on four years of tests at Graves -Chapple, 15-inch row spacing contributed between 10 to 12 percent yield increase compared to 30-inch row spacing.

Optimum soil fertility levels are critical to high yields. Proper soil pH, phosphorus and potassium soil test levels provide plants the nutrients they need. Growers should understand target soil test levels and how to maintain levels for high soybean yields.

Pre-emergence herbicide programs are critical for weed free fields. We recommend pre-emergence weed control with any second pass post-emergence control programs. Additionally, any post-emergence herbicide program requires controlling weeds when they are small. Small weeds are easier to control. Big weeds reduce yield through competition with the soybean plant, are hard to control, and increase cost of control.

Proper scouting for soybean insect and disease pests are critical for high yields. As we move into a time with lower grain prices, it becomes critical for growers to use economic thresholds and determine when and why a particular pest should be controlled. Growers should increase their management skills so they can make effective decisions.

At last, the weather component of growing soybeans is one of the main drivers of yield. Each season is different and given the soil resource, can increase or reduce yields. Growers should go through each of their management and input decisions and search for ways to improve yields.

For more information, contact Wayne Flanary at 660-446-3724 or Andy Luke at 660-425-6434, Regional Agronomists, University of Missouri Extension.

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