By Mike Staton, Extension Educator

Given the projected market prices and current production costs for corn and soybeans, some producers may alter their long-term rotation plans by increasing soybean acreage in 2017.

In these situations, soybeans may be planted into fields that were planted to soybeans in 2016. Producers considering this practice can expect a 5 percent yield loss compared to soybeans planted after corn due to the rotation effect. However, plant stress caused by environmental conditions, diseases or insects can easily increase yield losses to 20% or more. This article will list the principle challenges and risks of planting second-year soybeans and provide some management recommendations for mitigating them.

Diseases including soybean cyst nematodes (SCN) present the largest risk to second-year soybeans. The best strategy is to avoid planting soybeans into fields that were infested with white mold, sudden death syndrome (SDS) or SCN in 2016. These are soil-borne pathogens having the potential to cause large yield losses in the 2017 crop as well as future soybean crops. However, if you plan to plant soybeans into fields that were infested with white mold, SCN or SDS, consider the recommendations provided below.

Variety selection is your first line of defense when planting into fields infested with white mold, SDS or SCN. Try selecting varieties that have the highest level of resistance you can obtain for the identified challenge. Seed companies typically use a scale of 1 to 9 when rating the disease resistance or tolerance of their varieties. Read the scale carefully as 1 is excellent and 9 is poor in some catalogs, while in others it is the opposite. These ratings are useful when comparing varieties from a given company. However, they should not be used to compare varieties from different companies.

Consider using ILeVO seed treatment in combination with SDS and SCN tolerant varieties when planting soybeans into fields having a history of SDS. This recommendation is based on recent research conducted by Michigan State University.

If you must plant soybeans into a field infested with white mold in 2016, be prepared for the possibility of large yield losses if extended periods of cool and wet weather occur from late June to early August. These losses may be reduced by the following management practices:

  • Select the most resistant/tolerant varieties available.
  • Bury the sclerotia deeper than 2 inches with tillage operations. This practice will be less beneficial if sclerotia from previous infestations are present in the soil and it increases the long-term survival of the sclerotia produced in 2016.
  • Reduce planting rates.
  • Plant in wide rows.
  • Plant varieties from a range of maturity groups (early maturing varieties appeared to escape white mold infection or development in 2014).
  • Select and apply foliar fungicides properly.

Keep in mind the additional tillage operations and foliar fungicide applications will increase production costs.

If you plan to plant soybeans into a field infested with SCN in 2016, yield losses, SCN populations and the risk of developing a resistant SCN population type are likely to increase. The potential for these outcomes occurring can be reduced by implementing the following management practices:

  • Collect soil samples from each field and submit them to Michigan State University Diagnostic Services for the standard SCN analysis and the SCN type test if the yields in the field have been declining or SCN numbers are high.
  • Select SCN resistant varieties. Ideally, the variety planted in 2017 should carry a different source of resistance than the variety planted in 2016. If this is not possible, planting a different variety with the same source of resistance has been shown to delay the development of resistant SCN populations.

The potential for seedling diseases such as Pythium and Phytophthora may increase in second-year soybeans. Planting after soil temperatures reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit reduces the risk from Pythium and the use of resistant or tolerant varieties is the preferred management strategy for Phytophthora. Effective seed treatments for these diseases are also available.

When planting varieties having field tolerance, but not race resistance to Phytophthora, seed treatments must be used to provide adequate protection against this pathogen.

Pay attention to soil fertility and base fertilizer applications on recent soil tests. Many Michigan soybean producers apply phosphorus and potassium fertilizers prior to planting corn and let the following soybean crop scavenge for these nutrients. This works well on finer-textured soils (cation exchange capacities greater than 6 meq/100g) when enough fertilizer is supplied to meet the needs of both crops.

Don’t forget to apply the recommended potassium fertilizer when soybeans will be planted instead of corn in 2017 as potassium contributes to disease resistance and potassium-deficient plants are more attractive to soybean aphids.

Insect problems are not typically increased in second-year soybeans. Producers should scout all soybean fields for bean leaf beetles and soybean aphids.

There is potential for soil quality to be degraded by not staying with a corn-soybean rotation in 2017 as corn and wheat are the only two field crops that can build soil organic matter levels. The reduction in residue cover in second-year soybeans also increases the risk of soil loss due to erosion. Second-year soybeans should not be planted on sloping fields with low organic matter levels.

Changing your crop rotation, especially shortening it, is an important decision as it will have long-term effects on pest populations and soil quality. Make sure the benefits exceed the risks and manage the increased risk with proven practices.