Soybeans are an incredibly versatile and fascinating crop, but they don’t get the attention they deserve. Wheat, rice, and corn all outshine soybeans, and specialized crops grown on a smaller scale do too. Maize’s history is long and intertwines with our own. Ginseng, cranberries, and sunflowers are far more exotic and charismatic than a simple bean. Who is going to care about soybeans in the face of the overwhelming variety of agricultural plants? Well, you should, for one. Not only do soybeans fix nitrogen, but they also serve as a vital source of plant-based protein for humans and animals alike. If you’re thinking about embracing soybeans, here are five amazing tips you should know to help your farm succeed.
Plant at the Right Time
Soybeans are in-demand globally. You’re not limited to a local or national market. Proof lies in the prominent position the USSEC occupies. Before you can turn a profit shipping your soybeans across or out of the country, you need to get them to grow. As with any crop, you have to plant soybeans at the right time if you want them to thrive. Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all date for planting. You won’t know if you chose correctly until the harvest is in either. What works for you might not work for your neighbor, and it definitely won’t work for anyone outside of your area.
While it depends on your climate, you should generally plant soybeans in the spring. They’re an annual crop, meaning that their entire lifecycle occurs within one growing season. If you plant them too late, they won’t have time to mature before the season ends.
There are several other things to consider when deciding when in the spring to plant your soybeans. One is the risk of freezing temperatures. Most farmers wait at least two weeks after the last freeze to plant their soybeans, limiting the likelihood of a devastating frost. The next factor to think about is just the opposite. Soybeans are hardy, but even the toughest plants can succumb to heat stress. They begin to experience issues like reduced yield around 85 degrees Fahrenheit no matter what stage of their life cycle the plants are in. Other stages and higher temperatures may cause additional problems.
Pay Attention to Soil Types
Love it or hate it, soil science is going to occupy your thoughts on a fairly regular basis if you’re farming. If you’re new to the agricultural scene, you might be wondering why dirt is so important. It’s dirt. Plants grow in it. That’s not exactly the sort of amazing tip or insight you were expecting from this article. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than it seems. Soil orders, suborders, textures, the rhizosphere—it turns out that there’s an entire scientific discipline devoted to soil for a good reason.
Soybeans aren’t very fussy, but they still have soil preferences. The ideal soil for soybeans will be well-drained, meaning it won’t have much clay in it. However, it shouldn’t be sandy either. The pH should be between 6.5 and 8.0, so right around neutral. If the soil is too well-draining, it will dry out during hot, dry summer months, meaning crop yields will suffer.
What Fertilizers To Use
Related to soil types, the fertilizers you use on your soybeans matter. There are three major nutrients that plants require: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Here’s where soybeans get exciting. They, along with other legumes and a select few plant families, can fix their nitrogen. That might not sound impressive, but humans didn’t manage to produce nitrogen on a large scale until the Haber-Bosch process was invented in 1909.
Because soybeans produce nitrogen with the aid of bacteria in the soil, you should focus on phosphorus and potassium. Frequent soil tests will tell you when and how often you need to add more fertilizer. Keep in mind that more isn’t always better, as shown in instances of nitrogen pollution. An excessive amount of phosphorus can hinder your soybean’s ability to absorb zinc and iron, which, while required in much smaller amounts, are still necessary for healthy plants. Too much potassium is harmful as well and can cause calcium and magnesium deficiencies.
How To Count Beans
Not every seed you plant will grow, but planting too many can lead to overcrowding and weak plants. The point of balance between over-and-under-sowing a parcel of land is called the optimum seed rate. Unlike deciding when to plant, there’s an equation for determining seed rate.
Desired plant populationGermination percentage pure seed percentage live seed emergence percentage=seeding rate
For soybeans, your desired plant population should be at least 100,000 per acre when you’re planting them between 7.5 and 15 inches apart. That number may fluctuate depending on water availability and will likely be much higher. The germination percentage is the percent of the seeds you expect to germinate, usually available on the seed packaging. Pure seed refers to the percentage of your seeds that are viable at the time they’re planted. Live seed emergence refers to the percentage of seeds that you expect to germinate under the conditions you’re growing them.
You can adjust the equation to work for any unit of land measure as long as you’re using the same one for the desired plant population and seeding rate. Your results will be wildly off if you use acres for your desired plant population and hectares for your seeding rate, for example.
When To Rotate Crops
Because of their nitrogen-fixing quality, soybeans are a popular feature of crop rotations. When growing corn or another crop on the same patch of land the next year, your nitrogen fertilizer costs will likely be lower. Many farmers rotate yearly. You don’t have to, of course, but it’s best practice. Keeping crops in the same place long-term means you’re running the risk of exhausting your soil, more weed growth, and attracting bothersome, costly pests. The best crop rotation schedule will depend on your current environmental circumstances.
Soybeans could be a useful, profitable addition to your farm if you research before planting them. They won’t stand up to a major catastrophe, but they resist heat and have moderate water needs. They’ll also reduce the amount of money you spend on nitrogen-based fertilizers. Soybeans are also used in a wide variety of foods and products ranging from tofu to cosmetics, so you can feel secure in the knowledge that there’s a healthy market for them.