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PFR Report


Published on Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Planting season is upon us and one thing that is on every farmers’ mind is how to maximize their return on investment (ROI) and increase yields this season. This is especially true for farmers who may plan to capitalize on soybean crops this year with corn at the market price it’s at.

One way many farmers are looking to optimize their soybean crops this year is by planting earlier than ever before. Beck’s Practical Farm Research (PFR)® team has multi-year, multi-location data that identifies the optimum regional planting date for soybeans, which you can read more about here. One thing that farmers need to remember however is that while early planting dates have their benefits, cold, wet soils can leave seedlings susceptible to emergence issues, pests and diseases. This had lead many farmers in search of products that can offer an edge when it comes to early planting. One such product is a starter fertilizer.

Starter fertilizers are typically a small amount of plant nutrients placed near the seeding during planting. The main goal is to apply a concentrated amount of nutrients in an area where young plants can easily reach them to promote early season development. And while starter fertilizers are a common application on corn crops (you can read more about it here), most farmers have not considered the benefits such products could lend to their soybean crops. Because soybeans remove significant amounts of nutrients from the soil each season, they have the opportunity to benefit significantly from starter fertilizer applications applied on soils low in nutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K).

So why haven’t farmers been using starter fertilizers on their soybeans for years? One of the main reasons is because soybeans are typically planted later in the spring than corn, and thus the soils are warmer, there is more of an active mineralization of organic soil mater, and the temperatures encourage root growth and P uptake in the soils. In the past, Beck’s PFR hasn’t recommended the use of starter fertilizers in soybeans because planting had always been delayed until later in the season. However, because of the higher yield potential with early planted soybeans, more and more farmers are planting their soybeans earlier. That being said, over the last two years Beck’s PFR has been evaluating various soybean starter fertilizers applied in-furrow to determine their effects on yield and profitability.

We know that starter fertilizers provide young soybean plants with the various macro and micronutrients needed to optimize crops. They can also promote a more vigorous plant, which can translate into increased yields, especially when dealing with substantial early season stress. What the team has determined based off this two-year data is that the addition of a starter fertilizer could have a viable place in soybean management moving forward.

As shown in the graph below, Beck’s PFR saw a yield increase in all but one of the treatments across four sites in 2016, further supporting the effectiveness of these products on soybean crops.

To see the regional results of this study, click the links below.

One important thing to remember is that the success of a starter fertilizer will be heavily impacted by the growing conditions the crop experiences. Beck’s PFR will continue testing soybean starter products in an effort to identify the ones that will consistently add to your bottom line.


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Jim Schwartz

Jim Schwartz

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