Give your soils a hug — grow corn, not soybeans

So your winter wheat crop is looking rough and you plan to abandon it and plant another crop when the field dries up.

What will you plant? RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson has one word for you — corn.

When it comes to the health of Ontario soils, Johnson believes farmers in the province are already planting way too many soybeans acres and should resist the temptation to convert those failed wheat fields to the popular oilseed.

In this video, Johnson points out that research shows planting soybeans after soybeans will deliver a 10 percent yield hit. He also pins some of this year’s wheat crop woes on soybeans, due mainly to the negative impact they have on soil organic matter. Part of the winter wheat crop’s problem is poor drainage and increased compaction — two soil challenges exacerbated by greedy soybeans that contribute practically no soil organic matter to boost soil health. (Story continues after the video.)

Many growers will argue that they need to plant soybeans in those abandoned wheat fields to maintain rotations. That’s nonsense, says Johnson. If growers plant soybeans in those fields this year, they’re planting soys after soys. What’s the difference in planting corn before corn? he asks.

Corn after corn is not difficult, Johnson argues. “All you have to do is strip till between the rows of the previous crop — it works.” And many of those fields could certainly use the organic matter that a consecutive year of corn would provide. Corn also has less disease impact. When growers opt for soys after soys they increase the risk of diseases like soybean cyst nematode and sudden death syndrome.

When making the final replant decision, Johnson has one simple message: “Think about your soils. Give them a hug — grow corn.”

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