Early Soybean Planting and Stand Evaluation

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Field Leader, a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean check-off.

Planters were rolling early across the state during the second full week of April.  Now in the second full week of May, not much is occurring.  Rainfall and cooler temperatures since April have slowed planting progress. The Ohio Ag Statistics Service reports planting progress as of May 7th at 11% complete in Ohio for soybeans with 2% emerged.

Dr. Laura Lindsey, OSU Extension State Soybean Specialist is conducting an early planting date study in 2023 (along with a corn planting date study). “Two of the three planting dates have been completed with the first planting occurring from April 12-14,” said Lindsey. “The farm managers at the three locations the study is being conducted reported good planting conditions in early April. The field conditions at the Western Research Center were a little damp.  The second planting occurred April 26-27. The planting conditions reported were better at the Western Research Center, but the locations in Northwest Ohio and Northeast Ohio were a little damp.  Since it was for research we pushed it, but it was probably a little on the wet side to plant.”

Dr. Lindsey has been conducting the early planting soybean study for the past two years. “One thing we see with soybeans is that when you plant early, your stand will be lower, period,” said Lindsey. “The stands are lower from a combination of issues like diseases, slugs, and frost damage. Most of the time, the reduced stands will not impact the yield. The soybeans will compensate by increasing the number of branches. There is a difference in how early you plant and how far North you are in the state.”

One of the great challenges when planting early soybeans is deciding if a field needs to be replanted. “When we see reduced stands because of early planting, we recommend doing a stand count,” said Lindsey.  “One pitfall can be taking a stand count too early. With early planted soybeans and cool temperatures and wet conditions, it can take a while for the soybeans to emerge through the soil. However, it is important to really make an informed decision when assessing the stand and considering replant.”

A number of factors come into play with soybean emergence, such as depth of planting, soil temperature and soil moisture. Dr. Lindsey recommends waiting until V1 to evaluate a stand in soybeans. “When evaluating soybeans, I wouldn’t necessarily look at the time as much since it can vary wildly depending on the weather,” said Lindsey. “Usually, we try to do a stand count no earlier than the V1 growth stage, just so we can see what comes up. Sometimes it can take awhile for the beans to come up, and that is to be expected with early planted beans and cool weather like we have experienced.”

 A tip Dr. Lindsey often gives farmers when it comes to assessing a stand is to go ahead and finish planting all their other soybean fields first, and then go back and look at the stand and evaluate it at that point to decide if it needs to be replanted.

In Western Ohio, Dr. Lindsey’s study has shown that planting in the last week of March/first week of April versus the last week of April showed no yield difference. It was when planting was delayed until the end of May that a yield reduction was noticed due to delayed planting. In Northern Ohio, it is a little different because it is a cooler environment, the highest yielding beans were the ones planted in the last week of April because the first week of April is typically just too cold.

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