The Plant Health Initiative issued a report offering its top 10 strategies to help increase soybean yields. As farmers prepare to make management decisions for the 2012 crop season, now is the prime opportunity for ag retailers to discuss these top 10 tips to make the 2012 crop season the best.

1. Improve the quality of the root zone. This will improve water-holding capacity of the soil and plant resiliency. Healthy roots enable the vegetative portion of the plant to take full advantage of photosynthetic capacity.

  • Manage SCN populations. This goes beyond purchasing seed labeled as SCN-resistant.
  • Regularly test for SCN, rotate varieties grown in fields and sources of resistance to keep SCN numbers low.
  • Use fungicide and insecticide seed treatments. Research has shown that soybean seed planted with both yield more.
  • Drain soils—tile is inexpensive.
  • Reduce soil compactionImprove soil fertility levels.
  • Be sure you have enough P, K, and micronutrients but be sensitive to environment.

2. Variety selection. If you are planting a variety that is two years old or more you may be giving up $13 or more per acre.

3. Plant early to take advantage of as much of the growing season as you can. Delayed planting can cause 0.3 to 0.7 bushels/acre/day yield loss after May 10.

4. Row spacing. The greatest yield advantage is from 15- or 10-inch row spacing. Yield gains of 4.5 bushels/acre have been proven for narrow rows compared to 30 inch rows in Midwest trials.

5. Plant population. Agronomists from several Midwest universities have shown that a final stand of 100,000 to 125,000 plants per acre will provide the best return on investment.

6. Crop rotation helps reduce the severity of certain diseases and increases yield of soybean and corn crops.

7. Manage weeds early. Weeds compete with soybean for water and nutrients and sunlight. Use a combination of a pre-emergent herbicide for early weed control then go for one application of a post- emergent herbicide to clean up the rest.Use multiple modes of action to reduce the possibility of a herbicide-resistant weed population developing.

8. Hire a crop advisor if you are not monitoring your fields yourself. A good crop advisor will monitor your for yield robbing diseases, insects and fertility problems. Crop advisors are always up-to-date on emerging problems and management recommendations. Identifying problems early can save you big money.

9. Strive for a clean harvest for both soybeans and corn. Certain fungal pathogens like the one that causes Sudden death syndrome (SDS) survive on corn residue and dropped corn kernels. A clean corn harvest may reduce the severity of SDS the following year.

10. GET INFORMED! Take advantage of production meetings sponsored by Extension educators. These meetings are packed with the latest research findings and best management practices for producing corn and soybeans.