Row widths and planting population are two management practices that farmers have complete control over that are crucial to increasing yield and return on investment (ROI). And while many farmers like to hedge their bet by planting higher soybean populations, data has shown this to be unnecessary. Over the last 10 years, Beck’s Practical Farm Research (PFR)® team has compared 15 in. and 30 in. rows, at various planting populations, in an attempt to determine the Economic Optimum Seeding Rate (EOSR) for each row width.
After ten years of evaluation, the results of this study continues to deliver a positive ROI. In light of that continued success, Beck’s PFR team identified this as a PFR Proven™ practice in 2016. This 10-year, PFR Proven data has shown that a seeding rate of 100,000 is the EOSR in 15 in. rows while 125,000 is ideal in 30 in. rows. This data has also shown that planting in 15 in. rows continues to generate a higher yields than planting in 30 in. row. In fact, the 10-year, multi-location average favors 15 in. rows with a $31.09/A. advantage over 30 in. rows.
While many farmers believe that their yield potential can be increased with more plants in the field, this is not always the case. Because soybeans naturally branch and grow toward sunlight, increasing seeding populations can actually limit the ability of the plant to branch. Therefore, yield potential gain is not always achieved by increasing plant populations. Allowing your soybeans to branch will provide them with more area for pod formation on the plant, as shown in the image below.
While lower populations allow for greater area for pod formation, planting lower populations also comes with obstacles. Although there are more pods, these pods will form lower on the plant and the plant stem will be thicker on the soybeans planted at a lower population. Even though these are not in-season issues, they may lead to concerns such as yield loss or equipment wear during harvest. There is also a lower margin of error with stand loss when planting at lower seeding rates which is why it’s critical to include a seed treatment such as Escalate™.
Although lower populations have continued to be the optimum seeding rate for soybeans across both 15 in. and 30 in. row widths, it’s only a proven practice when planting full season soybeans. In the case of a double crop soybean situation, Beck’s PFR data has shown that a EOSR of 260,000 seeds is ideal. Although branching allows soybeans to maintain their yield potential with a full season soybean crop, double crop soybeans have their limitations. Shorter growing seasons and warmer temperatures during development mean these soybeans have fewer GDU’s and tougher conditions under which to produce optimum yields.
While Beck’s PFR team has identified these practices as PFR Proven in 2016, they should only be considered as starting points on your farm. While 100,000 may not be the most economical seeding rate on every farm, this data demonstrates the confidence farmers can have in lowering their soybean populations. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact your local Beck’s representative.
Practical Farm Research (PFR)®, PFR Proven™ and Escalate™ are trademarks of Beck’s Superior Hybrids, Inc.