Soybean School: Building up soil offers best return on nutrient investment

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Is 100 bushels per acre a reality for Ontario soybeans? If so, what can Ontario growers do to push soybean yields to the next level?

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs soybean specialist Horst Bohner believes one of the keys to making the yield jump is getting more nutrition into the soybean plant. On our final 2019 episode of the RealAgriculture Soybean School, Bohner takes a look at fertility trials from this year to illustrate the impact soil nutrients can have on soybean yield.

Bohner maintains that “built soils” — those with existing high P & K levels that have been built and maintained are the foundation for high soybean yields. To illustrate the point, he digs into soybean fertilizer trials conducted this year at the Elora Research Station. Here, the research team compared how blocks of maintained (or “built”) soil compared to areas that typically test low for P and K.

In the low test areas where no fertilizer was applied, soybeans yielded 28 bu/ac. In the same area when full rates of fertilizer were applied, yields increased to 42 bu/ac. When double rate fertilizer was applied, yield still remained at 42 bu/ac. But in built soils, which are maintained as part of long-term P and K trials, yields hit 50 bu/ac, with no extra fertilizer application.

In built soils, the yield stability is much higher than growers can realize when applying fertilizer in the fall or spring, before planting soybeans, says Bohner. And as 2019 data indicates, even when you throw on extra fertilizer in fall or spring prior to planting, it’s still no match for yields generated from built soils, he notes.

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