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Reduce Your Rate, Keep Your Yield

With proper management, lower seeding rate can cut input costs without sacrificing yield

In tougher economic times for soybean farmers, one soybean scientist says lower seeding rates can lead to better returns.

Shawn Conley, University of Wisconsin soybean specialist, says that you can save money on seed costs and still maximize profitability.

“Research has shown that if farmers reduce their seeding rates to target 100,000 plants at harvest, yield is not affected,” says Conley.

With more room to grow, individual soybean plants produce more branches and more pods per plant. But to take advantage of this option, Conley says you will need to pay special attention to best management practices, including seed treatments, variety selection, effective weed management and equipment calibration.

“First, understand your equipment needs,” says Conley. “Make sure your planting equipment is calibrated and ready to plant at this reduced rate because management of every aspect is more critical when planting at low populations.”

Treat Your Seed

On some acres, treating seed might make more sense than increasing seeding rates. Conley says that it often is best evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

“If the treatment is cheaper than the seed, it sometimes makes more sense for the farmer to do the treatment rather than increase the seeding rate,” says Conley.

Conley has researched the economic risk and profitability of seed treatments and seeding rates. He says farmers should consider their expected grain sale price and their seeding rate when determining seed treatment use.

Plan for Weeds

Take Action Against Herbicide-Resistant Weeds

Conley encourages farmers to be vigilant with their weed-management plans when considering lower seeding rates.

“When you reduce the seeding rate, the soybean plant is going to be less competitive with the weeds because there are fewer soybean plants,” he says. “So you need to do a really good job making sure that the field is clean in order to maximize yield.”

He recommends adding a herbicide mode of action instead of a higher seeding rate.

“A producer will get better bang for their buck by investing in more modes of action than by investing in 30,000 more seeds in the ground,” says Conley.

Variety Matters

Picking the right seed is important for yield potential.

“When it comes to variety selection, I think that growers really need to go back and practice Agronomy 101, especially in small-margin years,” says Conley.

He suggests farmers spend time getting to know variety options to determine the best one for each field. This is especially important in a seed industry where genetics are turning over every year.

“When genetics used to turn over every five years, farmers knew more about how each variety performed,” says Conley. “Despite the quicker turnaround now, they should make sure they do a little digging and pay attention to the data on the variety so they can get the best fit for their farm.”

(Source –  http://unitedsoybean.org/article/lower-seeding-rate-cut-costs-without-sacrificing-yield/#sthash.J5AsPN1n.dpuf)

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