By Aaron Saeugling
Iowa State University Extension Field Agronomist

When managing soybean production in no-till conditions, growers need to consider several management strategies. Factors to consider include: variety selection, insect management, disease management, fertility management and weed management.

Do you choose soybean varieties to make planting simple and fast? If you answered yes, you may be losing yield before you ever get to the field. How many varieties do you choose? If you answered two or less, you will only have one winner and a one loser, in terms of yield. Choosing a variety is the single most important decision a soybean producer can make to maximize yield.

Growers today have a wide variety of seed treatment options available to control insect and disease pressure. Choosing no-till varieties requires more than picking the highest yield variety in a seed plot. Some of today’s varieties are sold with either a defensive package or an offensive package. Choose varieties that have the ability to excel in a given environment. You would not play a five-foot-one-inch, 100-pound freshman at starting varsity offensive tackle. 

Selecting from seed treatment options is similar to choosing options on a pickup. I place the choices in three groups: (1) “I need this,” (2) “I could use this” and (3) “This looks cool but I would never use it.”

Seed treatments today include: fungicide packages, insecticide packages and growth promoters. Not one single package fits all fields. Some fields require multiple treatments while other fields yield well with only the basics. Insects to consider include bean leaf beetles, cutworms, soybean looper, soybean aphid and spider mites.

Disease considerations include Pythium, Phytophthora, Fusarium, Rhizoctonia, Brown Spot, Brown Stem Rot, Sudden Death Syndrome, Bacterial Postule and Bacterial Blight, to name a few.  While no one treatment will control everything, be aware of what different seed treatments can offer in the way of protection. 

Fall is the best time to build your farm fertility program. The basis for fertilizer is a quality soil sample.  With increases in yields and commodity prices, now is the time to have a soil sample that is no older than 4 years old. When considering soil sampling, take into consideration the maximum return on your fertilizer dollar.

This may include a variety of soil sampling types from standard composite samples, grid samples or zone type sampling. Site-specific soil sampling tends to return more for your fertilizer dollar with higher input costs. When addressing fertilizer needs, do not overlook proper soil pH; for most Iowa soils, a pH of 6.5 is sufficient. With higher fertilizer prices, lime should be a high priority of any soil test. 

Weed management in no-till soybeans often includes glyphosate application. The spring of 2010 proved to be a difficult year for weed management. Pre-emerge herbicide applications are beneficial to get the crop off to a clean start. Residual herbicide applications often are beneficial to control weeds because winter annual weeds have become more common as planting dates have moved earlier in the season, and fewer burn-down applications are being made. Fall herbicide applications to control winter annuals may be an option for specific weeds or for time management. 

While no-till soybean management may present challenges, today’s toolbox contains specific tools to help get the job done.  I encourage producers to consider location, options, and management to maximize production for 2011. Today’s choices are tomorrow’s profits.