Soybean School: What's Old Is New Again in Row Spacing

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Ask three farmers what the best row spacing is for soybeans and you might get three different answers, but in most soybean growing areas there’s been a trend back toward wider rows.

As part of this Soybean School episode, Horst Bohner, soybean specialist with Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture and RealAg’s Bernard Tobin discuss the driving factors in why growers might choose to plant beans in a “wide” 30 inch row spacing.

As Bohner explains, those reasons include reduced seed costs and the benefits that come with putting soybeans in the ground with a planter instead of a drill.

Wider rows, with more air movement, can also reduce disease pressure, although he notes “we don’t want to overplay it because if you have a lot of white mould and conditions are right, and you plant in in wide rows, you’ll still have a lot of white mould.”

Check out other Soybean School episodes here!

So what’s the downside to planting soybeans in 30 inch rows?

“The only reason we ever went to narrow rows and away from wide rows was to capture more yield,” says Bohner, pointing out soybeans were grown in 30, or even 40 inch rows when they came to Canada after World War II.

For northern soybean growing regions, yield is a function of light capture, he explains.

“In Ontario, our growing season is relatively short. The further north you go, the more of a benefit there is to closing the canopy fast. I prefer, actually, 15 inch rows seeded with a row unit. I think that’s a real good compromise for many of the soybean growing areas of Ontario,” says Bohner.

Horst Bohner and Bern Tobin discuss soybean row spacing and how it relates to residue management, seed costs, fertilizer application and ultimately, yield potential:

Related: Soybean School West: Planter vs Seeder & Row Spacing Considerations

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Soybean School (view all)Season 4 (2015) Episode 10
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