Much time this winter will be devoted to finding the keys. Our goal is to increase productivity on all farms. This goes for soybeans right alongside corn. Take a look at the MSU trials, which include sites less than an hour away. There is no reason we shouldn’t be making those type of yields every year like they are. Soybean yields were commonly in the 80’s and the top was 95 bushel per acre.
The common excuse I hear is we are too far north, or we’re too close to the lake and have too many cloudy days. Well, I’d also like to point out the farther north you go, the longer the summer days are. I’ll also take the opportunity to point out that it’s generally accepted here that hot, hot summers eat into crop yield. Well, I’d also like to say let’s look at where the world record yields have come from – the south. Are you telling me it’s not hot there, in Georgia and Arkansas? We tend to have less extreme heat than some of these places. I mean we’re told the temps have to get below 70 in order for the corn plant to ‘rest.’
The biggest disadvantage of being this far north is spring planting. Often, we don’t have the time to wait for optimum soil temperatures. As a result, we attempt to mitigate this by choosing good emerging or hardy hybrids and varieties. Year in and year out, it seems our early planted crops pay dividends at harvest.
There has to be something we are missing. The question remains: what is it? We have a couple of suspects. And since the kids just finished up their science fair projects, I’ll say we’re working to prove our hypothesis. Not that fertility was lacking, but after completing our nutrient management contract with the NRCS EQIP program fertility is even better, especially in the micro nutrient area. Yields have been trending up, but we want find the key to get us over the hump. It isn’t as simple as pouring N, P, & K to it. We’re going to have to determine what the proper levels are for the micro nutrients as well.
We will also have to determine which, if any, of the plant growth hormones or ‘growth promoters’ work. To be honest, it’s a bit embarrassing that Randy Dowdy (world record holder), who only began farming 10 years ago, has a better handle on crop management than we do. After all, this has been a lifetime occupation for us.
Despite dire times, we are willing to spend more if we can gain a repeatable economic return. This is our homework during this offseason. Our goal is produce the same bushels on a third less acres. It may take several years to accomplish this.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.