3/2/2021

Achieving 100 bu/acre Yields in Soybeans

Written by Mark Jeschke

Increasing Yields in Soybeans

  • Improvements in genetics and management have driven substantial gains in soybean yields in the U.S. over the past 50 years, at a rate of 0.48 bu/acre/year (Figure 1).
  • U.S. average soybean yields topped 50 bu/acre for the first time in 2016 and again in 2018 and 2020.

 

Graph - U.S. average soybean yields 1970-2020.

Figure 1. U.S. average soybean yields 1970-2020 (USDA-NASS).

  • 100 bu/acre has often served as a target yield level for farmers seeking to see how high they can push yields with optimized management and the newest genetics.
  • Across all of the on-farm genetic and agronomic trials Pioneer conducts each year in the U.S. and Canada, it has not been unusual for a few entries each year to top 100 bu/acre.
  • Beginning in 2018 however, the number of plots exceeding 100 bu/acre increased dramatically. This number declined in 2019 due to weather challenges but hit a new high in 2020 (Figure 2).

 

Chart - Series of Pioneer brand soybean varieties used in Pioneer on-farm trial entries exceeding 100 bu/acre, 2013-2020.

Figure 2. Series of Pioneer brand soybean varieties used in Pioneer on-farm trial entries exceeding 100 bu/acre, 2013-2020.

Pioneer On-Farm Trial Results

  • A total of 115 on-farm soybean trial entries exceeded 100 bu/acre in 2020, 107 of which were planted to A-Series soybean varieties (Figure 2).
  • 100 bu/acre was achieved with 40 different Pioneer® brand varieties from maturity group 1.8 to 4.8 (Table 1).
  • Yields over 100 bu/acre were achieved over a relatively wide geography from 2013 to 2018 including 19 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces.

Table 1. Pioneer brand soybean varieties used in 2020 Pioneer on-farm trials entries exceeding 100 bu/acre.

 

Pioneer® brand soybean varieties topping 100 bu/acre in on-farm trials in 2020 included:

Agronomic Practices for Soybeans

  • 100 bu/acre yields were achieved in a range of different environments and with a range of different agronomic practices.
  • Analyses of management practices used in yield contest winners in other crops have produced similar findings (Jeschke, 2019), indicating that there is no single one-size-fits-all formula for achieving high yield potential.

Previous Crop

  • The vast majority of 100 bu/acre plots (92%) were planted to corn the prior season, while 4% were planted to soybeans and 4% to another crop (data not shown).

Tillage

  • The most common tillage system used at locations with 100 bu/acre plots was conventional tillage, followed by no-till (Figure 3).

 

Chart - Tillage practices used in Pioneer on-farm trials with entries exceeding 100 bu/acre, 2013-2020.

Figure 3. Tillage practices used in Pioneer on-farm trials with entries exceeding 100 bu/acre, 2013-2020.

 

Photo - Closeup - soybeans in pods

 

 

Chart - Seeding rate used in Pioneer on-farm trials with entries exceeding 100 bu/acre, 2013-2020.

Figure 4. Seeding rate used in Pioneer on-farm trials with entries exceeding 100 bu/acre, 2013-2020.


 

"Analyses of management practices used in yield contest winners in other crops have produced similar findings, indicating that there is no single one-size-fits-all formula for achieving high yield potential."

 

Seeding Rate

  • Seeding rates used in plots yielding above 100 bu/acre ranged from 110,000 seeds/acre to 225,000 seeds/acre (Figure 4).
  • Average seeding rate was slightly higher among no-till locations (156,000 seeds/acre) than conventional till locations (149,000 seeds/acre).
  • Seeding rates differed among the four states with the most 100 bu/acre plots:
  • The average seeding rate across Illinois and Indiana locations was 149,000 seeds/acre
  • The average seeding rate across Kansas and Nebraska locations was 170,000 seeds/acre
    • The average seeding rate across Illinois and Indiana locations was 153,000 seeds/acre.
    • The average seeding rate across Kansas and Nebraska locations was 166,000 seeds/acre.

 

Chart - Row spacing used in Pioneer on-farm trials with entries exceeding 100 bu/acre, 2013-2020.

Figure 5. Row spacing used in Pioneer on-farm trials with entries exceeding 100 bu/acre, 2013-2020.

Row Spacing

  • The most common row spacing of 100 bu/acre plots was 30-inch rows, followed closely by 15-inch rows (Figure 5).
  • Geographic distribution of row spacing practices roughly corresponded with findings of recent USDA surveys, with 30-inch rows most common from Illinois west and narrower rows more common from Indiana east (Jeschke and Lutt, 2016) (data not shown).

Planting Date

  • Recent research has shown the importance of early planting for maximizing soybean yields (Van Roekel, 2019). Most trial locations with 100 bu/acre plots were planted in the latter half of April through the first half of May (Figure 6).

 

Chart - Planting date of Pioneer on-farm trials with entries exceeding 100 bu/acre, 2013-2020.

Figure 6. Planting date of Pioneer on-farm trials with entries exceeding 100 bu/acre, 2013-2020.

Other Practices

  • Other management practices employed at locations with 100 bu/acre plots included foliar fungicides, foliar insecticides and supplemental nitrogen applications.

 

Photo - soybean field with farm operation in background - long shot - green field.

References

  • Jeschke, M. 2019. Managing Corn for Greater Yield. Pioneer Crop Insights Vol. 29 No. 2.
  • Jeschke, M., and N. Lutt. 2016. Row Width in Soybean Production. Pioneer Crop Insights Vol. 26 No. 12.
  • Van Roekel, R. 2019. The Importance of Early Planting for Soybeans in the Midwest. Pioneer Crop Focus Vol. 11 No. 1.

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Varieties with the Glyphosate Tolerant trait contain genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate herbicides. Glyphosate herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate.

Always follow stewardship practices in accordance with the Product Use Guide (PUG) or other product specific stewardship requirements including grain marketing and pesticide label directions. Varieties with BOLT® technology provide excellent plant-back flexibility for soybeans following application of SU (sulfonylurea) herbicides such as DuPont™ LeadOff® or DuPont™ Basis® Blend as a component of a burndown program or for double-crop soybeans following SU herbicides such as DuPont™ Finesse® applied to wheat the previous fall.

Varieties with the DuPont™ STS® gene (STS) are tolerant to certain SU (sulfonylurea) herbicides. This technology allows post-emergent applications of DuPont™ Synchrony® XP and DuPont™ Classic® herbicides without crop injury or stress (see herbicide product labels). NOTE: A soybean variety with a herbicide tolerant trait does not confer tolerance to all herbicides. Spraying herbicides not labeled for a specific soybean variety will result in severe plant injury or plant death. Always read and follow herbicide label directions and precautions for use.

DO NOT APPLY DICAMBA HERBICIDE IN-CROP TO SOYBEANS WITH Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® technology unless you use a dicamba herbicide product that is specifically labeled for that use in the location where you intend to make the application. IT IS A VIOLATION OF FEDERAL AND STATE LAW TO MAKE AN IN-CROP APPLICATION OF ANY DICAMBA HERBICIDE PRODUCT ON SOYBEANS WITH Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® technology, OR ANY OTHER PESTICIDE APPLICATION, UNLESS THE PRODUCT LABELING SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZES THE USE. Contact the U.S. EPA and your state pesticide regulatory agency with any questions about the approval status of dicamba herbicide products for in-crop use with soybeans with Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® technology.


ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Soybeans with Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® technology contain genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate and dicamba. Glyphosate herbicides will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Dicamba will kill crops that are not tolerant to dicamba.

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