Highly Managed Soybeans Can Benefit from Starter Fertilizer

Soybean emergence can improve with a starter fertilizer application, but no-tillers must continue managing the crop throughout the season to see a return on investment.

In the wake of low corn prices, growers are placing a greater focus on soybeans. The USDA estimates that soybean acreage this year is at a record high 89.5 million acres, up 7% from last year, while corn acreage is estimated to have dropped 4% to 90 million acres from 2016.

In February 2017, we asked no-tillers if they planned to make any changes to their crop rotation this year from 2016. While 50% said they don’t plan to make any changes, 21% intend to plant a higher percent of soybeans in 2017. (See the full poll results.) 

For those looking to optimize soybean yields this season, applying a starter fertilizer may be a practice to consider.

“It really helps with emergence,” says Brian Banks. “We know if we can get a really good soybean stand emerging that can prevent any kind of crusting issues and just get the plant started well.”

The senior agronomist for The Andersons adds that the goal of a starter application on soybeans is to increase the biomass of the plant up front for faster canopy closure. This leads to increased light interception, which boosts photosynthesis and carbohydrate production. Improved weed control is another benefit of faster canopy closure, he notes. 

Carbohydrate production is important for high-yielding soybeans because it takes roughly 10 pounds of carbohydrates for the soybean nodules to produce 1 pound of nitrogen (N), Banks explains. 

“If we’re going to grow a 60- to 70-bushel soybean crop, that’s going to…

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Laura allen

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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