Soybean School: Can You Plant Too Early?

Many soybeans growers will throw away the calendar and plant as early as possible this spring.

That strategy works for agronomist Deb Campbell just as long as farmers pay close attention to soil conditions and the forecast. “These days, if we’re able to plant corn we can plant soybeans – ground conditions are very similar for both crops.”

In this episode of Real Agriculture’s Soybean School, Campbell, who runs Agronomy Advantage consulting, shares thoughts on what farmers need to think about when planting soybeans early this spring. Everything from soil temperature to variety choice, weed control program, seeding rates and corn residue needs to be considered.


Agronomist Deb Campbell reminds growers the goal of early planting is to increase the node count on plants before flowering. “We don’t necessarily need more plants, we need healthy, viable plants.”

“We want soil temperatures ideally above 12 degrees C. We also want to be planting into a warm forecast,” says Campbell. “Keep in mind that the soil temperatures are often warmer than the air in the spring, especially if we’re dealing with worked soil.”

Part of the push for earlier planting is the trend to longer season varieties. “When we go with longer full-season varieties, we tend to get rewarded with yield,” says Campbell. “That gives farmers an opportunity to step up 100 to 150 heat units in maturity and still quite easily come in at a mid-October harvest window.”

With the relatively open fall and mild winter conditions, Campbell says she’s noticing an aggressive crop of annual weeds. That combined with the growing threat of glyphosate resistance means growers will need to make pre-emerge programs part of their weed control strategy.

Seeding rate is another consideration. Typically when farmers experience tough early-season conditions the tendency is to increase the rate. “We really don’t need to do that,” says Campbell. “The preference is that we have fungicide-treated seed and we keep the seeding rate reasonably modest. We want to end up with a final plant stand of about 120,000 to 140,000 plants per acre.”

Campbell reminds growers the goal of early planting is to increase the node count on plants before flowering. “We don’t necessarily need more plants, we need healthy, viable plants. By the time we reach that June 21 window – when daylength changes – the goal would be to have seven or eight nodes on those plants.”

Campbell expects that growers planting soybeans into corn residue will have an easier job in 2016 thanks to fall and winter conditions that promoted corn stalk breakdown. For growers rolling into heavy residue, she recommends a row unit planter over a drill. “It handles the residue much better and also gives you uniform seeding depth and placement.”

Check out more Soybean School episodes.


RealAgriculture Agronomy Team

A team effort of RealAgriculture videographers and editorial staff to make sure that you have the latest in agronomy information for your farm.


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