As you walk soybean fields this spring and summer pay close attention to canopy management. The two key things to focus on are canopy closure and vegetative growth.
If you have too little or insufficient canopy and the rows don’t close, the crop will not optimize its yield potential. In this scenario, we’re not maximizing light interception and we’re allowing sunlight to hit the ground, which contributes to weed pressure and potential soil moisture loss.
It’s also important to ensure your canopy doesn’t have too much vegetative growth. Excessive vegetation may look impressive, but what you have is long stems, which do not maximize nodal growth, buds, blossoms, pods, beans and yield. That excessive growth can also create challenges in areas where diseases like white mould are problematic.
Population trumps row width
If you want to grow 70-bushel soybeans, canopy management is critical. One of the key variables to understand here is population. Too often I hear people say: ‘population doesn’t matter that much – if you have 100,000 plants you’re fine.’ That’s simply not the case.
Achieving optimum canopy really depends on understanding the growing environment, knowing the height, width and branching characteristics of your variety, and then choosing an effective row width and the right seeding rate and plant population to produce that canopy.
At Syngenta, to help growers make the best canopy management decisions, we’re launching a Canopy Index for 2019, in our seed guide. We’ll be evaluating all of our varieties based on these factors going forward. The guiding principle of the index is the fact that population trumps row width. The objective is to recommend the best fit variety with the right plant characteristics for the yield environment – high, medium or low – and then assign a plant population target to produce the optimum canopy.
Getting the optimum canopy
The index will account for key production considerations to help growers select the best Syngenta Seeds soybean variety for the field environment. For example, many narrow branch varieties will produce optimum canopies in narrow rows; varieties with medium branching characteristics will have the flexibility to work in both narrow and wide rows; while others will produce the most productive canopy in wide rows.
Here again the key is managing population. If the population is too high, for example, a variety that is well suited to a high-yield environment could have too many plants generating massive amounts of vegetative growth that can ultimately end up creating a negative impact on yield.
Look for the Canopy Index in our seed guide this summer. It’s another tool to help you intensify soybean management to reach your yield goals