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Delayed planting may be blessing in disguise for soybeans

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Even though planting soybeans earlier has been an increasing trend for growers, a Purdue University expert said this year’s delayed planting may be more beneficial than detrimental.

The abundance of rain that has washed over the Midwest has caused planting delays in many states. Indiana and Ohio have 19 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of the intended soybean crop planted, according to the latest report from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service. Combined, this means that nearly 7 million acres are not yet planted.

“But this late planting may be a blessing in disguise,” said Ellsworth Christmas, Purdue Extension soybean specialist. “Soybean seed quality is horrendous.

“Don’t get me wrong, there is some good quality seed, but an awful lot of it is just marginal. And that poor quality seed is at much greater risk to rot and disease, especially if it has to sit in the ground for several days.”

Purdue research shows that growers should plant soybeans between April 25 and May 10 to obtain the highest yield potential.

“We found that planting after May 10 leads to a 0.5 percent yield reduction per day,” said Andrew Robinson, an agronomy student who examined the relationship between planting dates and yield. “And, planting after early June results in a yield reduction of 1 percent to 1.5 percent per day.”

Robinson and Christmas agree that if this is the case, with new crop soybeans at $12 a bushel and an average yield of 50 bushels per acre, a 0.5 percent yield reduction per day is a loss of .25 bushels per acre per day or $3 per acre per day. For a 1,000-acre soybean farm, that’s a loss of $3,000 every day soybeans aren’t in the ground.

However, as long as growers are prepared to plant as soon as the ground is ready, that may not hold true with this year’s weather situation, Christmas said.

Robinson’s research showed that planting in late May or early June resulted in a 10 percent to 15 percent total decrease in yield.

“This could be attributed to having a shorter growing season, and the length of day probably played an important role at inducing flowering earlier and causing the plant to develop quicker,” Robinson said.

Robinson’s two-year study confirms what farmers already suspected – planting soybeans earlier, but not too early, produces better yields.

Robinson planted soybeans in 2006 and 2007 on six different planting dates, starting at the end of March and planting one acre every two weeks through the first week of June. Three varieties were planted each time: an earlier maturing variety, an average maturing variety and a late maturing variety.

Robinson not only looked at the relationship between yield and planting date, but also at how protein and oil content changed with the planting date. Researchers observed that at earlier planting dates, oil content was higher than at later planting dates and that protein content was opposite.

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