Soybean School: Seeding Rates and Soybeans' Ability to Make Up for Thin Plant Stands

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While soybean breeders have focused on boosting top-end yield, they’ve also made the crop more resilient in situations with thin plant stands.

Speaking at the CropConnect Conference in Winnipeg last month, Shaun Conley of the University of Wisconsin discussed the “phenotypic plasticity” of soybeans, or the crop’s ability to compensate for lower plant populations.

“It’s one of the advantages soybeans have over field corn for example. Canola and wheat both have a little bit of phenotypic plasticity to fill in those gaps, but what it really does is allow the soybean plant to compensate so the yield reduction for decreased stands isn’t as much as it would be for field corn or other crops,” he explains in this Soybean School episode.

While overseeding has sometimes been used as an insurance policy against a poor plant stand, he suggests growers may want to rethink their seeding rates, and reconsider their threshold for reseeding a field due to thin populations.

“What I’m really trying to get growers to understand is that today’s genetics are even better than they were say 10 or 20 years ago in the plants’ ability to compensate for thin stands. In the last 80 years, soybean breeders have bred that plant to put on three times as much yield on the branches that come in in these thinner stands,” notes Conley.

Check out the video below for more with Conley on soybean seeding rates and the crop’s ability to compensate for a reduced plant stand. You can find his research work at coolbean.info. (Conley is also the co-author of a children’s book entitled “Coolbean the Soybean.”)

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