A new soybean yield record of 206 bu/ac was set last week by Alex Harrell of Smithville Georgia (1). In today’s edition of Growing Possibilities, we ask the question, what do high yield soybean records mean for the average soybean grower?
Harrell’s new record beat Randy Dowdy’s record of 190 bu/ac set in 2019 when he broke his old record of 171 bu/ac, set in 2016 (2). Before that the record was held by Kip Cullers of Purdy, MO, at 160.6 bu/ac (3). These are obviously high yielding outliers set by a group of extremely vigilant farmers under optimal conditions. There is not a consensus on exactly how much soybeans can produce although estimates of the upper end of the soybean plant’s productivity range from 250-300 bu/ac (4, 5).
The world record is trending up at a high pace. But what is the reality on the ground for the industry at large? In Canada average yields went from 44-45.9 bu/ac form 2016-2022 (6). In the US they went from 49.3-50.9 (7). And in Brazil they went from 50-52.6 bu/ac (8). RealAgriculture.com recently said that making 80 bu/ac a reality is probably more attainable goal for Ontario famers (4). But what can farmers and retailers do to try and push an average trendline that is more in line with the pace set by record holders?
Experts point a combination of genetics, environment, nutrition management and soil health (4). Vogel et. al. (2021) suggests that while genetic selection is a major factor (in today’s high yielding varieties) genetic breeding cannot select plants for yield alone but rather traits associated with high yields. This is then combined with good management to favour these traits such as irrigation, optimal row spacing and nutrition (9).
Soybeans have a vegetative growth period, a flowering period, a pod seed formation period and a seed filling period. Each of these phases needs to be treated in its own way. “One thing farmers forget about is using dual inoculation like XiteBio® OptiPlus® at planting,” says Doug Tigges US Sales Manager at XiteBio. “Farmers in the US are starting to treat their soybeans with the care that they treat their corn and focus on foundational practices like inoculation. The use of premium inoculants is a simple and cost-effective measure that ensures your soybeans get the nutrition they need right from the start.” Inoculants establish during the vegetative period and provide atmospheric nitrogen (N) to the plant. However later in the life cycle of the plant the rhizobia die off as the plant focuses its energy away from the symbiotic relationship with the bacteria and towards plant maturity.
When asked about some of the practices that allowed him to set the record Harrell said, “we had heavy beans from late season management”. He says that once the soybeans start blooming and putting on pods farmers need to continue to push a comprehensive management program as much of the nutrition taken up by the soybean plant is taken up later in life (1). For farmers that use dual inoculation this can mean continuously digging up plants throughout their growth cycle to see what stage the nodules are at. If they are still pink on the inside, they are still active and providing nutrition (N) to the plant. However, once they change from pink to grey/whitish they have stopped supplying N to the plant.
So what do high yield soybean records mean for the average soybean grower? It means they need to keep applying good management practices, keep a focus on soil health and adopt a culture of learning to continue to push higher yields. We at XiteBio are proud to be a part of a comprehensive nutrition management solution by supplying premium inoculant products to our growers. Until next time we wish you Healthier Plants and Better Yields.