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It is well known that soybean planting date affects yield potential. Several university research studies have shown that early planting, when field conditions are suitable, often positively affect yield potential for soybean.
The following reasons have been identified for the potential yield increase associated with an early planted soybean crop:
Temperatures. Planting soybean early can help to maximize yield potential despite cold soil temperatures and slow seedling growth. Although the ideal soil temperature for rapid soybean germination and emergence is between 77 and 86 °F, soybean seeds can germinate when the soil temperature is about 50 °F. However, soybean emergence may take as long as two to three weeks under cold soil conditions.
Moisture content. When planting early, it is important to wait until good soil and seedbed conditions exist. Planting when soil is too wet can result in compaction, poor seed placement, and poor stand establishment. Excessive tillage or a heavy rain soon after planting can result in soil crusting, which can lead to a poor stand. Soybean planted in wet soils will likely negate any yield advantage from planting early.
Risks to early planting can be mitigated with improved technologies. Cold soil temperatures can slow root development and make soybean stands more susceptible to soil-borne pathogens. Planting treated seed can help to achieve appropriate stands and maximize early season soybean growth. Fungicide seed treatments can provide protection from early season diseases such as Phytophthora, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, and Fusarium. Insecticide seed treatments can help provide protection against early season insect pests, such as the overwintering bean leaf beetle (BLB) (Figure 1).
The following cultural practices should be considered at planting to help establish an optimum stand capable of achieving maximum yield potential:
Planting into a suitable seedbed condition requires management considerations and patience, especially if the goal is to plant early. Early planting has advantages and disadvantages. The advantages include earlier flowering, more vegetative nodes, increase in reproductive nodes, and potential for an early harvest. The disadvantages include soil crusting, damping off, late spring frost, insect pressure such as BLB, and potential diseases such as SDS.