Picket Fence Soybeans

October 25, 2017 Eric Richter

Yes, that headline is correct!

Typically, the term ‘picket fence’ is reserved for assessing corn stands, but it’s time to add it to your soybean vocabulary, especially if you want to grow a 70-bushel crop.

A picket fence corn stand is usually defined by uniform emergence, spacing, stalk diameter and height of ear set. When growers see this in the field, they immediately think high yield potential.

But the same picket fence can be found in soybean fields. Creating it should be one of your management objectives. It looks a little different but it means the same thing – high yield potential.

When you create a picket fence stand in your soybeans it will only be visible twice during the growing season – at the V1 stage and just prior to harvest.

At V1 in soybeans you’re looking for uniform plant spacing within the row. This is accomplished by improving singulation and reducing the number of row gaps. When we talk with growers, many say they’re not concerned about soybean spacing and gaps in the row because the crop has the ability to compensate and fill in those bare spots. Yes, soybeans can indeed compensate for reduced stands, but that will only get you an average provincial yield, not the 70-bushel crop you should be targeting.

To get those top yields we need to reduce gaps in the row. That means eliminating gaps greater than one foot in medium to wide rows and greater than two feet in solid-seeded rows. When growers consistently see these areas in their fields, it’s time to take a close look at your planting equipment. Quite often, drills need calibrating; planters with bean cups can often pose challenges; and sometimes you could be using the wrong plate.

It’s also critical to understand how important even emergence is when achieving a picket fence stand. Just like corn, late-emerging soybean plants can be ‘runts of the litter’ and lead to yield loss.

You’ll see the picket fence pay off at senescence. When the leaves hit the ground they reveal even spacing, stem diameter, pod load and pod distribution across the entire field. You’ll see a wall of pods that will deliver a higher yield and a strong return on your commitment to intensively managing your soybean crop.

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