On-Farm Research Study to Investigate Practices to Increase Soybean Yield

A farmer inspecting soil
Checking soil conditions while planting the improved soybean practice treatment on April 20 in Richardson County.

On-Farm Research Study to Investigate Practices to Increase Soybean Yield

As you gear up for planting season, on-farm research can help you evaluate different soybean management practices. In 2019, four farmers evaluated practices that may contribute to increased soybean yields through a study with the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network. The studies examined planting date, seeding rate, and the use of foliar fungicides and insecticides. The practices evaluated a ‘baseline’ treatment, which was considered to be the conventional, standard practice, and an ‘improved’ treatment, which utilized practices that survey data found to be associated with higher yields.

  • The baseline treatment consisted of a later planting date, higher seeding rate, and no foliar fungicide and insecticide treatment.
  • The improved treatment consisted of an earlier planting date, lower seeding rate, and foliar fungicide and insecticide treatment.

Brothers Larry and Lonnie Schafer, who farm corn and soybeans near Tobias, Nebraska, are one of the operations that evaluated these practices. This study was the first they conducted working in cooperation with the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network. For Lonnie, the interest in participating in this study stemmed from his desire to learn more about soybean planting date and seeding rates.

“We’ve always been curious about soybean planting dates and populations and this seemed like a good fit,” Lonnie explained.

Larry noted that the project did take some extra time to implement, but that his local extension educator, Randy Pryor, was available to help with plot design and data collection and that agriculture technologies made it easier to conduct the study. Larry and Lonnie plan to continue conducting on-farm research and suggest others may find value in participation as well.

“If people have a question about something or would like to see if something makes more yield or helps cost, I would encourage them to try it,” Larry said. “I’m sure it would help out in various ways.”

Lonnie agreed, suggesting other farmers participate in an on-farm research study and urging them to “keep an open mind.”

Early planted soybeans from the improved soybean practice
Figure 2: Picture taken on May 27, 2019. Early planted soybeans from the improved soybean practice planted on April 20, next to strips that were about to be planted to evaluate the baseline soybean practice.

The results of the first year of the study were promising. Across four sites, the improved treatment resulted in an average 8 bu/ac yield increase and $46/ac profit increase compared to the baseline treatment.

The project is part of a larger, multi-state effort involving the University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University, Michigan State University, Iowa State University, North Dakota State University, University of Minnesota, and University of Nebraska. View the entire, multi-state report.

Study Details

The study will be continuing in the 2020 growing season, and applications to participate in the study are being accepted. Read on for more details and sign up to get more information at: https://go.unl.edu/soystudy2020

Where will the trials be located?

All research sites will need to be located in the shaded regions on the map in Figure 3 (any color).

map of target areas where this study can be conducted
Figure 3. The shaded areas (red, brown, orange, yellow, green, blue) indicate the target areas where this study can be conducted.

What does the research plan look like?

Download a full project plan.

There will be four replications of the two treatments (baseline and improved). The baseline treatment will look at late-planted soybeans (after May 15), soybean seeding rates around 160,000 seeds/ac, and no foliar fungicide or insecticide treatments. The improved treatment will look at early-planted soybeans (late April/early May) at a seeding rate around 130,000 seeds/ac, with a foliar fungicide and insecticide treatment around the R3 stage (beginning of pod setting).

Basic research study layout for this study
Figure 4: Basic research study layout for this study.

Due to grower interest, we have added an option to include the following study (below) as an OPTIONAL ADDITION, next to the above trial.

Optional, additional fungicide and insecticide study layout.
Figure 5: Optional, additional fungicide and insecticide study layout.

What equipment and technology do I need to have?

Because you will be planting some strips early and skipping some passes to come back and plant later (for the late planted treatment), the study will be easiest if you have auto-guidance on your planter and the ability to generate as-planted maps. Similarly, the ability to generate as-applied data from your fungicide and insecticide application will be helpful but not mandatory. Harvest data may be obtained using a well-calibrated yield monitor or weigh wagon. You will be required to provide all crop inputs (seed, fungicide, insecticide, etc.).

Will I be monetarily compensated?

Yes, monetary compensation is available for this project, up to 20 growers. For details complete the “sign up for more info” form.

What kind of assistance will I receive?

We will assist with the specifics of your plot layout (adjustments for your equipment widths and operation), assist with flagging and GPS locating of treatment strips, take stand counts on the fields, provide a soil test and seed quality results from the samples taken from your field.

What kind of fields are you looking for?

We prefer fields that are no-till or reduced till. Fields can be irrigated or non-irrigated, but should not have tile drainage.

Should my soybeans be treated?

Yes, please use treated seed for this study.

How many trials will be conducted?

A total of 20 research studies will be completed in 2020.

How will the data be used?

The results of these studies will be shared at on-farm research meetings, through extension publications, and other research publications. To protect your anonymity, your name will not be connected to your research project in published materials.

How can I sign up to get more information?

https://go.unl.edu/soystudy2020