The 2014 crop year was one for the soybean record books. The U.S. average yield of 47.8 bushels per acre was 3.8 bushels above the previous records of 44 bpa, achieved in 2010 and 2013.
"You can't control the weather, and 2014 was an almost perfect season," University of Missouri agronomist Bill Wiebold said. "We had adequate rain at good intervals. Also important to record yields were the moderate temperatures. We did not have 100-degree Fahrenheit days and only a few in the upper 90s, and comfortable night temperatures in the 60s. That combination doesn't happen very often."
Wiebold said soybeans need above-normal rains, about 1.2 inches per week, in August when plants set and fill pods. Moisture helps determine the number of pods and pod retention. In addition, soybeans burn up their photosynthesis at night and prefer more comfortable temperatures for that job.
"You can't downplay genetics and management to take advantage of the weather any more than you can ignore building a car and not putting in the right fuel," he said. "Yield comes from the sun. Anything you can do to improve the capture of the sun is good, including early planting, narrow rows and stand density. Then, you must maintain plant health, and that means scouting, getting rid of weeds and controlling insects and diseases to maintain leaf area."
Wiebold urged farmers to correct management mistakes and plant the right soybeans in the right soils and right geographies. "New science gives farmers tools to increase soybean yields, but they have to manage wisely and see what happens with the weather," he said.
The United Soybean Board has set the ambitious goal of reaching a 60-bushel-per-acre national average by 2025. Many U.S. soybean growers have already surpassed that milestone and set their sights on reaching 100-bushel yields. In this seven-part series, DTN/The Progressive Farmer looks at some of these top producers and their practices. This is the third story in the series.
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