Soybean School: 2018 lessons to remember this spring

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As the 2019 planting season draws near there’s one thing we know for sure — it will be different from last year.

That’s just the way things go, of course, but there are lessons from last year that growers can take to the field for 2019. The first thing growers need to be mindful of is their seed choice, says University of Wisconsin-Madison soybean extension specialist Shaun Conley. In this episode of RealAgriculture’s Soybean School, Conley tells host Bernard Tobin that variety choice is still the most important management decision.

Often, Conley believes there’s too much focus on traits — whether it’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend, Roundup Ready 2 Yield or Liberty Link — when choosing seed varieties. “We have to remember that traits protect yield, they don’t give you extra yield,” he says. “That’s why it’s important to pick those varieties that perform well over a large environmental area.”

Conley also notes that 2018 was a difficult year for seed production. Soybean growers across North America faced tough harvest conditions and he expects that seed produced last year will generally have lower germination scores. He advises farmers to pay attention to seed tags this spring. Most of the time germ will range from 92 to 98 percent, but scores could dip into the 80s on some lots, he says.

Given soybean prices and market conditions, Conley feels many growers will be looking to shave input costs this spring. Reducing seeding rate is one cost saving option, but don’t do it without checking the germ score. If growers dial back seeding rates on lower germ seed “you could reach a threshold where you are losing some yield potential. Read the seed tag, understand the germ and adjust seeding rates accordingly,” he advises. (Story continues after the video.)

Conley’s other management tips for 2019 include ensuring the soybean crop has adequate potassium. From a nutrient perspective, it’s a key yield driver and growers producing huge corn crops have to be aware of removal rates to ensure their soy crop has sufficient K to meet their yield expectations.

2019 is also not the year to skip a seed treatment. Going back to the potential for lower seed germ rates, Conley notes that there is lots of data supporting the fact that the application or addition of a seed treatment actually increases germination percentage in low-germ seedlots.  He adds: “If plants are a little weaker because of poorer germ, a seed treatment will help help protect early-season growth and vigour in those plants.”

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