Get Your Beans In A Row

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
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Planting needs to be more than a controlled spill if lowering seed populations. Spacing to encourage branching becomes important, Image by Pamela Smith

John McGillicuddy thinks there are too many soybeans in your field.

The agronomist has spent years researching how farmers can maximize yield with far lower seeding rates. He and Karen Corrigan advise farmers and agribusiness through their Midwest-based firm, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics.

The key to putting seeding rates on a diet is careful, uniform planting and spacing, which allows the soybean plant to do what it does best--branch and fill.

“You really need a planter that can space properly, because if you’re buying expensive seeds, you’ve got to be precise,” McGillicuddy says. “If we space them evenly and let them do their thing, we can put more pods on a single plant without tying up more resources in extra stems, extra roots, all those parts of the plant that you don’t get to sell.”

This practice has allowed McGillicuddy and his farmer customers to drop their seeding rates as low as 80,000 seeds per acre, all without dinging yield. In fact, they’ve yet to see a downside yield effect to the practice.

“We probably just haven’t gone low enough yet, but this year indicates that 80,000 is about as low as we should go for now,” he says. He also recommends a good seed treatment package and diligent preemergence weed control with lower seeding rates.

Many growers worry that thinner fields mean more weed problems, but with a good preemergent herbicide program, careful seed spacing and a uniform canopy can keep weeds at bay, McGillicuddy says.

“When you plant soybeans thick, they grow up, not out,” he says. “Our 50- to 80,000-population fields canopied faster than the 130,000-population fields because we got dramatically more branching.”


Emily Unglesbee