Soybean School: Could higher seeding rates salvage poor plant stands?

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Strong plant stands can set a soybean crop up for big yields. But difficult spring conditions can leave soybean seedlings fighting to emerge and unable to contribute to the population levels needed to reach yield expectations.

In Ontario, typically one to four per cent of the soybean acres fail to establish adequate plant stands and need to be replanted. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs soybean specialist Horst Bohner says that number will be on the high side of the range for 2023 — as much as 150,00 acres — after a tough spring produced many sparse soybean fields.

On this episode of the RealAgriculture Soybean School, Bohner looks at the challenging spring conditions and what steps could be taken to help growers get acceptable plant stands without replanting.

At the top of Bohner’s list of solutions is higher seeding rates. He notes that the current recommended provincial seeding rate is 165,000 seeds planted in 15-inch rows, using a planter (177,000 with a drill).

Bohner is working on the third year of new seeding rate research to update seeding rate recommendations. In the video, he compares the performance of three seeding rates: 90,000, 160,000 and 230,00. At these rates, in the trials, short, adapted and long-season varieties are planted in three planting windows — April, May and June. (Story continues after the video.)

Bohner says he would expect the high rate (230,000) to win the late planting because a strong population would emerge quickly in warm soil and the shorter plants would then canopy and rapidly move through the growth stages. With early planting, however, the lower population is often the best choice because the plants have more time to bush and branch out. But Bohner’s plots are telling a different story. In every comparison plot at his research site in Elora, Ont., the 230,000 population has delivered the top yield.

What does that mean for future seeding rate recommendations? Bohner says growers need to factor in soil conditions and types, as well the economics and return on investment when pumping up rates. For now, he’s going to reserve judgement on the final seeding rate recommendation, but he does believe that “planting on the higher side” of the recommended rate could solve some of the problems seen in 2023.

Click here for more Soybean School videos.

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Soybean School (view all)Season 12 (2023) Episode 16
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