Soybean School: How Pre-till vs No-Till stack up for optimal plant stand counts

On the first day of summer how many soybean plants per acre are required to maintain 100 percent yield potential?

The answer is simple – 150,000 plants per acre. But there are many management factors to consider when trying to hit that number. In this episode of the RealAgriculture Soybean School, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs soybean specialist Horst Bohner takes a look at the role tillage systems play in stand establishment.

We catch up with Bohner at OMAFRA’s Bornholm, Ont., research location where he compares a stand of no-till soybeans to a neighbouring plot of pre-tillage soybeans that received one pass with an RTS-type unit prior to planting.

Using a hula hoop, Bohner needs to count an average of 24 plants per circle to hit the 150,000-yield potential number. In this trial, the no-till circles average 21 plants while the pre-tillage circles average 26. He notes that pre-tillage typically outyields no-till by two bu/ac but in this case, pre-till could see a yield advantage of three bushels or more.

Story continues after video.

Early season, when Bohner evaluates no-till stands, he’s not worried that the plants are paler and a little shorter – often it’s simply an issue of not having enough plants per acre. “I have found that this pre-tillage is a good way to try and get a few more plants per acre, a little more vigorous growth.”

Bohner also discusses the impact planting depth has on stand establishment. Unlike corn, he says there is no evidence in the soybean world that growers have to go a certain depth to optimize root structure. Depending on available moisture and the growing environment, soybeans can be planted anywhere from one to 2.5 inches deep. “The whole trick is to get them out of the ground.”

Click here for more Soybean School episodes.


Bernard Tobin

Bernard Tobin is Real Agriculture's Ontario Field Editor. AgBern was raised on a dairy farm near St. John's, Newfoundland. For the past two decades, he has specialized in agricultural communications. A Ryerson University journalism grad, he kicked off his career with a seven-year stint as Managing Editor and Field Editor for Farm and Country magazine. He has received six Canadian Farm Writers' Federation awards for journalism excellence. He's also worked for two of Canada's leading agricultural communications firms, providing public relations, branding and strategic marketing. Bern also works for Guelph-based Synthesis Agri-Food Network and talks the Real Dirt on Farming.


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