Sustainability

Ground Work 2022: Planting Double-Crop Soybeans in Illinois

After a late spring, we finished planting our crops at the beginning of June. But now it is dry, and our crops really need a drink in our area in the heart of the U.S. Midwest. Our soybeans look fairly decent, considering the weather conditions and lack of rain.

We did have about 20 hectares, or 50 acres, of soybeans that we had to replant for various reasons. These spots were scattered across our fields. We finished replanting in early July, just in time to start planting about 101 hectares, or 250 acres, of double-crop soybeans.

These soybeans are being planted in fields where we harvested winter wheat in late June. Normally, we would plant soybeans immediately after harvest. But this year, we have a customer who wanted straw, so we baled the wheat stubble after cutting it. Then we planted these soybeans as quickly as possible.

Because our soybeans were planted over a long period of time, they are at many different growth stages, but at the beginning of July, their height averaged about 30 to 35 cm, or 12 to 14 inches. We made post-emergence weed control applications of herbicide as needed. In some instances, weeds have gotten too big. By the time we notice weeds escaping through the soybeans at this height, it is too late for a rescue herbicide treatment. Plus, we grow non-genetically modified soybeans, which limits our herbicide options.

When this happens, we send walking crews to these fields to pull the weeds by hand. Every year, we manage weeds in some soybean fields like this, but with growing problems with herbicide-resistant weeds, the need to “walk beans” to pull weeds has increased. And, like everyone else, we have a labor shortage.

In addition to taking care of soybeans, our team has been side-dressing corn for our fields and for other customers. To do that, we inject liquid nitrogen into the soil along the side of each corn row to put nutrients the plants need right where they can easily absorb and use them.

We have also been maintaining waterways in many fields. Waterways are shaped to carry water across fields without causing soil erosion. Grass grows in them, and we have been mowing that grass and baling it into large, round bales. We sell most of these bales to a nearby dairy farm to use as feed. People in the area that own horses also buy a few of these bales for winter feed.

As we look ahead, weather will dictate much of our work in the next month. If the hot, dry weather we’ve been having continues, that stress will cause the corn plants to condense their growing season and tassel sooner. Timely rains would prevent that, and increase the yield potential.

The weather will determine if we apply fungicides just to manage serious disease risks, or if we apply them more broadly to boost yield potential. Fungicides applied at corn tasseling can improve yield. Depending on the weather and crop conditions, we will make similar decisions for soybeans.

While we monitor the weather, technology helps us make these decisions. Images in the FieldView app allow us to check field health and moisture received from our tablets. We also take soil samples and tissue samples of the soybeans and corn to evaluate the nutrient content so we can address any nutritional gaps with an in-season foliar fertilizer application while applying fungicides.

This technology helps us know where to focus our attention when scouting. It also helps us see issues with the crop that we can’t see from the ground.

As we make decisions as both farmers and ag input suppliers about fungicide applications, our team will use ground spray rigs in the field to treat fields. To cover more acres in a short time period, we also work with a nearby aerial applicator. We supply the products and they use an airplane to spray fields for our farm and our customers.

As ag input suppliers, we continue to deal with supply chain challenges every day. The amount and prices of products available changes constantly. We never know if the products we ordered will be delivered, or if we will receive replacement products with a similar function but a different formulation. We are constantly evaluating and adjusting how we care for our crops and help other farmers do the same. It’s exhausting. And based on what we’ve heard from some input distributors, we may be managing these types of issues for a couple more seasons.

Now that it’s July, it’s hard to believe that harvest is just around the corner. Lots of yield potential is still out there in our fields, and we are hoping and praying for timely rains to fill out soybean pods and corn ears for a good harvest.

Ground Work 2022: Planting Double-Crop Soybeans in Illinois

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Lynn Rohrscheib

U.S. Soybean Farmer

United Soybean Board

Lynn Rohrschieb, a ninth-generation farmer, raises soybeans and corn and runs an agricultural input supply and custom application business with her parents and sister near Fairmount, Illinois.