Happy Easter! This will truly be one to remember and hope you were able to still connect with family and friends in some way. For fruit trees and freeze temp. thresholds, please check out this resource: https://www.canr.msu.edu/uploads/files/PictureTableofFruitFreezeDamageThresholds.pdf. With planting having started for some or anticipated in the next few weeks, wanted to share some things I’ve been thinking about and some questions I’ve received.
As much as we have more physical distance in ag, it may be wise to have some plans in place in the event someone becomes sick with COVID-19 in your crop or livestock operation. Things such as disinfecting equipment and a sample 0-2 month plan with contact phone numbers are available in this week’s CropWatch at cropwatch.unl.edu. There’s also information on the CARES Act explaining the numbers. A series of Farm/Ranch COVID-19 free economic webinars are upcoming from UNL AgEcon. The first is this Thurs. April 16th at 3 p.m. CST. and features Nathan Kauffman, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, presenting on COVID-19 Economic Developments and U.S. Agriculture. Details and recordings will be posted at https://go.unl.edu/manage2020.
Planting Considerations: It was nice to see equipment out in fields this past week! With tight economics, it’s important to make wise decisions with the factors we can control during planting season; it sets the stage for the rest of the year. One factor to consider is planting windows instead of planting dates. While this week is mid-April, it may not provide the best opportunities for planting. Be sure to check soil temps and plant at proper depth, not mudding in seed, and plant as close to 50F soil temps as possible when there’s a warming trend. Avoid planting when there’s potential for a cold rain/cold snap within 48 hours for corn and at least 24 hours for soybean. It’s also best to get seed in the ground 1.5-2” deep. For corn, this is critical in helping with nodal root establishment. For soybean, this aids in buffered soil moisture and temperature and helps delay emergence to aid against potential frost. Numerous research studies have proven the yield benefit to early planted soybean. Outside of the genetics, it’s the top way to improve soybean yields. When we conducted these studies via on-farm research, we also had planting date X planting rate studies. Those studies showed no yield difference when planting 120K vs. 180K in April vs. May beans. All the planting date studies had an insecticide + fungicide seed treatment and I have no data without it. Our soybean planting rate studies did not always have a seed treatment and now 13 years of that data still shows 90-120K planted seeds being the most economical while 120K is what we’d recommend for yield.
In this week’s CropWatch, I wrote an article with Jim Specht on soybean germination. The imbibition phase (water uptake) is the critical phase for potential seed chilling. Once the imbibition phase is complete, the soybean going through the osmotic phase can tolerate 35-40F soil temps as long as soil is not saturated. The reason why we say at least 24 hours for soybean vs. 48 hours for corn (regarding cold snap/cold rain) is because the soybean seed imbibes water much faster than corn. You can prove this to yourself! Put a soybean seed and corn seed in water and watch what happens. When teaching youth ag literacy, I put soybean seeds in water to show them the seed coat, root and first leaves. Granted, we’re not planting soybean into water, but it helps one see the difference in how the seeds imbibe water. Studies from journal articles showed the imbibition phase could complete in as little as 8-12 hours. However, it all depends on the beginning soil moisture, soil temperature, quality of the seed (no nicks in the seed coat, free of wrinkles from wet/dry cycles, higher seed moisture of 13-16%). There have also been experiments to suggest that soybean can be planted in 45F soil temps if soil moisture is stable and no cold rains occur during the imbibition period.
I’ve also received a few questions regarding rye rapidly growing and what to do. I have no research-only observation and talking to others. I’m still a fan of planting green. However, have noticed difficulty with residual herbicides applied to tall rye (above 12”) and getting down to the soil, thus weed escapes. So, a few thoughts. If you’re concerned about the rye, you can always terminate a few weeks before planting. Otherwise, consider splitting your residual with half on when you kill rye after planting with other half later or putting on your residual in a second pass after killing rye. Would welcome others’ thoughts/experiences of what’s working for you!
Dicamba Webinar: The National Ag Law Center is hosting a free webinar titled ‘The Deal with Dicamba: An Overview of Dicamba-Related Litigation’ on April 15th at 11 a.m. CST. It will discuss various lawsuits filed in response to crop damage allegedly caused by herbicides containing dicamba. Details: https://bit.ly/3e2LvGX.
Increasing input costs are forcing producers to evaluate every decision they make. With soybean seed costs on the rise, producers in the Greater Quad County On-Farm Research group wondered if they could reduce their soybean populations while maintaining yield and saving money. On-farm research conducted in field scale, randomized, and replicated farmer plots and at the South Central Agricultural Laboratory near Clay Center from 2006-2008 proved producers could.
Since 2006, planting rates of 90,000, 120,000, 150,000, and 180,000 seeds per acre have been planted in 12 irrigated soybean fields on 30-inch rows. Prior to this research, most of these producers usually planted 160,000-180,000 seeds/acre. The 90,000 low rate was determined based on UNL research recommending not to replant a hailed soybean stand if at least 90,000 plants/acre remained in the field.
In 2008, cooperating producers used these same rates to plant soybeans at five sites with 20 replications. Planting dates ranged from April 29 to June 3. In the end, there was little difference in percentage stand and yield among the four planting rates (see Table 1). The 120,000, 150,000, and 180,000 yields were statistically the same (only a 0.3-bushel difference between the 120,000 and 150,000 rates) and were significantly better than the 90,000 seed-per-acre plots; however, note that the 90,000 plot yielded only 1.7 bu/ac less than 150,000 plot. All data was statistically analyzed to determine the yield differences due to the various treatments.
The findings are similar to the 2006 and 2007 studies. In 2006, yield results ranged from 65.5 bu/ac at 90,000 to 67.4 bu/ac at 180,000. In 2007 yield results were 59.4, 59.6, 59.4, and 60.2 bu/ac for 90,000, 120,000, 150,000, and 150,000 respectively with no statistical difference.
Most likely, these results are indicative of soybean’s ability to compensate for reduced populations. Figure 1 shows increased plant branching at lower populations compared to less branching at higher populations. This was observed in all fields regardless of variety. Also observed in 2008, were two additional nodes/plant at the 90,000 population compared to the 180,000 population. Nodes are important as flowers, pods, and ultimately yield are produced from them.
A dryland field in Nuckolls County also showed interesting results. This field was hailed at the cotyledon stage, so planted populations of 100K, 130K, and 160K became average actual stands of 74,417; 89,417; and 97,917 plants per acre. August rains in 2006 helped deliver yields of 38.6, 40.6 and 42.7 bu/ac, respectively.
Figure 1a. Lower planted populations of 120,000 compensated for reduced plants by increased branching, flowering, and pod set, regardless of typical variety architecture.
Figure 1b. Fields with planted populations of 150,000 were observed having a more erect architecture with reduced branching compared to fields planted at rates of 120,000.
Rates for Drilled Soybean:
In 2006, one drilled field in irrigated conditions in Fillmore County yielded 68.4 bu/ac, 66.6 bu/ac, and 67.2 bu/ac for planting rates of 150,000, 175,000, and 190,000 seeds per acre respectively. Another study in 2006 conducted by the Soybean Feed Grains and Profitability Project in a rain-fed field in Lancaster County showed a slight but significant yield advantage to drilling soybean at a rate of 152,500 seeds per acre compared to 115,000 seeds per acre. Yield for the higher seeding rate was 56.8 bu/ac compared to 56.0 bu/ac with the lower seeding rate. When using grain drills and reducing soybean populations, variable seed spacing and seed depth within a drilled row can be an issue for soybean emergence. This is why a population increase for drilled beans is often recommended.
Recommendation: Plant Soybeans at 120,000 Seeds/Acre
Based on three years of consistent research results, UNL specialists recommend reducing planting populations from an average of 160,000 seeds/acre to 120,000 seeds/acre in 30-inch rows. This reduction of 40,000 seeds per acre results in a savings of $10.66 to $18.57 per acre based on seed costs of $40-65 a bag. For three years producers were able to achieve a 90% stand and have not seen a statistical yield variance from 150,000 or even 180,000 seeds/acre. With soybean seed costs increasing, reducing soybean planting populations is another way producers can survive high input costs of crop production.