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Population, planting date critical

(CIFN file photo)

SPRINGFIELD – Pushing seed populations for soybeans was considered a standard for higher yields not that long ago but times have changed.

Those in the industry have now learned that if planting populations are too high, resources are diverted to extra roots, stalks and stems and not enough is left to feed the important part of the plant.

“It’s a balance,” explained independent agronomist John McGillicuddy at the recent IL Soy Advisor Soybean Summit. “We’ve gone to more moderate populations and better spacing to try and preserve resources that we can allocate to the part of the plant we are going to sell.”

McGillicuddy believes good management pays its biggest returns under water stress. The way you manage a field determines how efficient that field utilizes water. The good manager often gets 10-15 percent more bushels on the same amount of water compared to the poor manager.

Water, sunlight, nutrients, carbon dioxide, space and time are all very important to soybeans. Simply improving the root mass on a plant will allow access to extra water.

“Every part of the plant is built out of those. You only have so much and one of them is going to be your limiting factor,” McGillicuddy said.

Many agronomists, including McGillicuddy, are advocating early planting for soybeans. In fact, he is more comfortable planting soybeans earlier into the cold ground than corn since key soybean yield decisions aren’t made until August. If a plant appears sick in April, the plant shouldn’t mind down the road as plenty of pods will be produced later in the season.

“With corn, it’s a different animal,” McGillicuddy admits. “Corn is making some pretty critical yield decisions early.”

Some of McGillicuddy’s clients have started planting beans around April 10-15 and waiting to put corn in the ground until April 20-25 if conditions allow.

McGillicuddy is an agronomist with McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics.

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