Q&A: What's the Best Pattern for Planting Soybeans into Corn?

Q&A: What's the Best Pattern for Planting Soybeans into Corn?

CropWatch Reader: I presently plant corn and soybeans in 30-inch rows. Corn is no-tilled in bean stubble and beans are planted after one tillage pass in the spring, usually a tandem disc. I am considering no-tilling soybeans into corn stubble and was wondering what would be the best planting pattern. Should planting be done across the corn rows, next to the corn rows, or down the middle of existing rows? Should population be increased in no-tilled beans?

No-till soybean planting at UNL's Rogers Memorial Farm
No-till planting soybeans into 200+ bu/ac corn residue at the UNL Rogers Memorial Farm, east of Lincoln.


Paul Jasa, Extension Engineer: Many producers no-till their corn and soybeans with the same planter in 30-inch rows. I prefer to no-till with the rows and use controlled wheel traffic, if possible. I usually no-till down the old row, cutting through the old stubble, and I don't use any residue movers or coulters. This puts the seed in the most biologically active area in the field and minimizes the residue disturbance.

If your planter cannot handle the old root balls, plant as close to them as possible to be near the biological activity. When planting between the old rows, that's the most compacted area in the field as that's where you drove last year (at least on two rows or four rows if you run duals) and the least biologically active area. Also, you'll wear out tires quickly by driving on the old rows. While some producers plant on a diagonal, they may have to compromise how they set the planter -- to cut the root balls, to penetrate the hard wheel track, or to handle the soft guess rows? These are three different seeding conditions so it's more difficult to get uniform stands and growth. Tires also wear out faster when they're driven across the root balls. We don't drive on the old stubble and our tires last a lot longer.

We do not increase our soybean seeding population in no-till; in fact, we decrease it because all the seeds are placed into a more uniform seeding environment, with good soil moisture, and a residue cover that protects it. The residue reduces soil crusting, reduces drying of the seed zone, and reduces the likelihood of the seed row washing out. We get better stands in no-till, provided the planter is set up properly to penetrate through the residue. We add weight to our planting units to help ensure penetration.

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A field of corn.