5 Tips to Making Strong Bean Decisions

Mike Carr, Soybean Lead
October 10, 2023

The growing season for 2023 was another challenging year for growers.  Environmental conditions rhyme with other seasons but 2023, like most years, offered a unique combination of challenges.

Risk management is a delicate game sometimes.  We tend to fear the big losses more than we enjoy the big wins.  Fortunately, genetics in corn and soybeans are raising the floor on losses while at the same time raising the ceiling on top-end performance. Here are a few musings on soybean maturity that may help steer the discussion on what to plant next season.

  1.  Full season soybeans for your growing area can potentially yield higher due to a longer reproductive period (flower, pod set, seed set, seed fill)
  2. Any stress that limits one or several of the reproductive functions of the plant can limit yield (heat, cold, frost, dry, too wet, disease, insect, chemical, etc.)
  3. Many growers observe that a certain maturity range of soybeans is yielding higher, especially in high-stress regions.  Usually, the early maturing soybeans are higher yielding.  It’s likely the early products had more weight packed into the seed before the high temperatures of late August occurred.
  4. Green stems and leaves on a plant with mature pods are a good sign that the plant aborted seed fill during the stress period.  The energy left in the stem had no place to go so it kept the plant alive longer.  Some genetics have a tendency toward green stems, but the widespread occurrence this season is more likely related to the combination of drought and heat stress.  Mild weather is out of our control as growers but selecting a range of maturities will help spread the risk of a weather event impacting a high percentage of your acres.  A fuller season product may help take advantage of a late August rain when early season soybeans have reached maturity.
  5. Observations on white mold extended well into Northeastern Kansas in 2023.  Historically, white mold has been limited to more northern regions of the corn belt.  In areas where white mold had a significant impact on yield, it might be a good strategy to plant earlier-maturity soybeans.  I would recommend going early by about ½ maturity group.  For example, if a 3.0 maturity is in the full season for you then shift to a 2.5 maturity soybean on fields where white mold is a concern.  Genetic tolerance is improving in soybeans but there are also some good fungicide choices available as well.  It's a good idea to manage white mold with both approaches.  The cultural management options also can help (reduced plant population, wider row spacing, irrigation water management).