Sustainability

Ground Work 2022: Soybeans Off to Strong Start in Missouri

At this stage of the growing season, the crops in our area of the U.S. Midwest look really good.

So far, we’ve had ample moisture. Throughout planting in April and May, we didn’t get more than 1.3 to 1.5 cm, or .5 to .6 inches, of rain at a time. After we finished planting soybeans on May 20, we did get a slow rain of about 5 cm, or 2 inches.

Thanks to good conditions, all our crops emerged really well. We have an excellent stand of both soybeans and corn. In fact, our corn looks as good as it ever has so far, even if it is a bit later than average.

Although most of our soybeans look really good, we have a few small areas in the fields that had cover crops where we have vole damage. Voles are small, underground rodents that eat green, living plants. Their natural predators are coyotes and chicken hawks. But when they are under fields where we’ve planted a rye cover crop, those predators can’t see them, so their numbers grow. When soybeans emerge after the cover crop is terminated, the voles eat all the young plants in concentrated areas. Sometimes we see damage in a circle up to 1.8 m, or 6 feet, in diameter. In other places, we will see bare strips in our soybean fields 3 to 4.5 m, or 10 to 15 feet, wide, and up to 15 m, or 15 ft, long, where voles have eaten all the young plants. We could use poison to manage the voles, but by the time their damage shows up, they have moved on, so we don’t think it is worth the time and cost.

This year, we decided to try replanting the bare spots with soybeans for the first time. I finished replanting spots totaling less than 2 hectares, or 5 acres, in a couple fields on June 7. Our hope is this will limit weed problems in those spots. We will learn this season how replanting works.

After planting, our next priority was controlling the weeds that emerged during planting. We started with weed control in corn, which was planted first. While we aim to apply full-season herbicide for weed control when the corn is 7.5 to 10 cm, or 3 to 4 inches, tall, sometimes the crop grows faster than we can get to them. We finished applying corn herbicide in early June, and by then the corn in the last fields we treated had grown to 25 to 30 cm, or 10 to 12 inches.

This week, as we reach mid-June, we are starting to apply post-emergence herbicides in our soybeans to control weeds. The focus is controlling the weeds that are currently competing with the soybeans, which are about 10 to 15 cm, or 4 to 6 inches, tall. Where needed, we add residual herbicides to control weeds that haven’t come up yet.

Our other focus throughout June is delivering last year’s crop. We have contracts to deliver much of the remaining soybeans and corn harvested in fall 2021 this month. We haven’t sold all of last year’s crop in storage, but we will do that soon so we can prepare to store the 2022 crop. Our ability to transport our crops reliably and efficiently from our farm to various markets is how we do our part to meet needs for feed, food and fuel.

The soybeans we are selling will be exported from an ADM terminal on the Mississippi River near St. Louis, which is about 320 km, or 200 miles, east of our farm. ADM arranges trucking for those soybeans, so we just need to be sure the semitruck drivers know what storage bins we will fill their trucks from when they come.

Right now, we are trucking our corn to a nearby ethanol plant to become fuel. Last month, we delivered some corn to a nearby egg farm to be used to feed laying hens. Depending on area prices, we may also deliver some of the corn we haven’t sold yet to an area feed mill, where it is used to make feed for pigs or poultry.

At the same time, my brothers, my nephew and I are already working ahead for harvest. We’ve started working on equipment and storage bin repairs for this fall.

We have also started planning for next season. We finished all the conservation work we wanted to do this spring before planting, but as we drive through the fields to plant or apply herbicides, we are thinking about changes and conservation work we would like done for next season. We will soon start looking at fertilizer and other input costs for this fall and next spring, as well.

With our 2022 crop looking good so far, we hope to deliver another high-quality, sustainable crop to customers next year.

Neal Bredehoeft

U.S. Soybean Farmer

Neal Bredehoeft farms soybeans and corn with his brothers and a nephew near Alma, Missouri.