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High Yield Soybeans: Weed Control

March 3, 2011 Leave a comment

There is a lot of talk in the industry about Kip Cullers, and his record-breaking 160-bushel soybean yield. Suddenly, the goal everyone is talking about is 100 bushels soybeans. A lot of my winter meetings had seminars on this subject. There are yield contests in both states I work in to promote techniques for growing high yield soybeans. Why all the push to increase soybean yields? Demand. There’s a huge world demand for high-protein crops in the world, and we don’t grow enough protein to meet it. One out of every four rows of soybeans that are grown in the US are exported. Soybeans are over $14 a bushel on the CBOT, and despite the high price, demand does not seem to be cooling.

So there’s a huge demand for soybeans, and we need more of them. Soybeans have been a fickle crop to get yield increases out of. Unlike corn, where we have increased average yield by around 4 bushels per year, soybean yield growth has been very slow. As the plant breeders work at developing new lines of soybeans with increased yield, we as agronomists and growers need to do our part, too. We need to stop treating soybeans as ‘the crop that you plant when you don’t plant corn’, and actually take some time and manage them. One of the easiest first steps to take is to look at your weed control program.

With Roundup Ready soybeans, it’s easy to kill weeds. What it is not so easy to do is properly manage weeds. Research shows that timing of weed removal is just as critical in soybeans as it is in corn. Waiting until weeds are 12″ tall before spraying them with glyphosate (Roundup, or one of the many generic brands) can cost you five bushels in yield. With $14 soybeans, you just lost $70 an acre, simply by waiting too long to spray. A better approach is to use a soil-applied herbicide product before, or just after planting. These products will give residual control of weeds for several weeks after planting, allowing you time to spray the glyphosate before the weeds get too tall.

There’s apparently a huge demand for these soil-applied residual products this year. In talking with a manufacturer rep yesterday, he was sure that he would sell out of his entire inventory before the season was over. It’s a money-making, easy decision. You’ll gain yield, you’ll help reduce development of resistance to glyphosate, and you’ll get better control of tough weeds that even glyphosate has problems with.

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