Inputs to consider in 2021

By Luke Schulte, Beck’s Hybrids

The casinos of Las Vegas were not built upon the hopes of the “house” winning more than the gambling participants. While farming is a gamble considering the unknown of weather, having a more predictable response to specific inputs is always beneficial. 

Beck’s Practical Farm Research (PFR) team has evaluated hundreds of products and practices over the years. In an effort to provide farmers with a list of products and practices that resulted in the greatest consistency of ROI, Beck’s developed their PFR Proven designation in 2017. For a product or practice to earn the distinction of PFR Proven, it needs to have been tested a minimum of 3 years, must provide a positive yield gain each year, and it must average a positive return on investment over that 3-year period.

June/July PRF proven products

Humika (Sidedress Nitrogen Additive) 

Humic substances, those containing carbon like humic acids, provide several benefits to both the soil and plants. Carbon sources can serve as unique nitrogen stabilizers. Current commercial stabilizers on the market protect a single segment of a nitrogen source. For example, Instinct works to slow down the bacteria that convert ammonium (NH4+) to nitrate (NO3-) but provides no stabilization of the nitrate molecule. Meanwhile, 28% nitrogen contains both NH4+ and NO3-. Carbon can hold both charged molecules to better protect from loss. In addition, humic acids/carbon sources help to increase the soil’s water-holding capacity. Humika is a carbon product comprised of both humic and fulvic acids.

Fungicide product selection

Intuition tells us that fungicides provide a benefit when diseases are present or will soon develop. However, fungicides can still provide a benefit even in the absence of disease. 

Fungicides also help to increase nitrate reductase activity, water-use efficiency, photosynthesis, and reduce ethylene production or stress. These are referred to as plant health benefits. Fungicide selection should consider not only disease efficacy but also the impact to plant health. Products containing a strobilurin or SDHI mode of action fungicide typically provide the most significant plant health benefits.

Soybean fungicides — Why details matter

While the current commodity market may be more forgiving, management practices make the soybean fungicide application significantly more profitable.

Growth Stage: The middle third of the soybean plant will account for approximately two-thirds of the overall final yield. Specifically targeting the R3 growth stage allows for exceptional coverage of what will be the middle third of the soybean plant at maturity. The R3 growth stage is identified as having a 3/16-inch pod at one of the top four nodes on the main stem. The average duration of this growth stage is typically 9 to 10 days but varies upon planting date and environment.

Insecticides 

While we don’t completely understand why, the inclusion of an insecticide provides a synergistic effect to fungicide applications. One theory is that the fungicide drives an overall increase in photosynthate (sugar) production that attracts more insects for feeding. Healthier plants with more insect feeding may lead to a reduced net effect or negate much of the benefit provided by the fungicide.

Carrier rate 

To date, we have only tested carrier rates in soybeans for 2 years. And while it’s not technically PFR Proven, we know that increasing the number of gallons in our carrier rate will ensure maximum coverage of the plant’s middle third, which accounts for 2/3 of the overall yield. Additional water is cheap by comparison.

Given the current commodity market, the tendency of some may be to throw caution to the wind in an all-out attempt to capture additional bushels. However, incremental yield is never guaranteed, so making confident input decisions still applies, even with an atypical corn and soybean market.

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