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Early Soybean Planting

Apr 15, 2021

by Jeff Blauwet, CFE Technical Agronomist

Much has been written and discussed on planting beans earlier than our normal habits and even considering planting beans before corn. The idea being that we can plant beans earlier, we may be able to get a couple more nodes on each plant which gives us more upside on yield potential. There could be some increased risk with beans getting nipped by frost in early planting scenarios depending how early you go. Research has been done in some Midwest states, planting as early as March just to see what may happen, but our opinion would be considering any time after mid-April.  Beans can stand colder temperatures before frost damage as the seedlings have much thicker plant tissue than corn seedlings. That could help lower risk in early bean plantings but not eliminate it. If beans do get frozen enough to kill above ground tissue, they will not regrow or survive. If corn gets frozen it likely can survive and regrow from the seedling below ground because its growing point is still below ground, while a soybean’s growing point emerges as the cotyledon emerges.

We have done Innovation Trials in 2019 & 2020 on early vs late plantings. The early plantings were on Apr. 21st & Apr 26th and the “normal” plantings were May 13th & May 16th.  In 2019 (wet soggy year) we lost a little over 1.5 bu/a vs the normal planting date. In 2020 we gained about 1.5 bu/a by planting earlier. So, no obvious pattern has shown up yet. We have had two extreme weather years with 2019 being exceptionally wet and 2020 being quite dry especially in the latter half of the summer. In 2020 we did have a light frost as the early plantings were emerging, but we didn’t lose any plants as it wasn’t cold enough to bother.

There may be some benefit to consider on switching to bean planting first and corn second. We have all heard how critical it is to get every corn plant to emerge as close to the same day as possible. We know if a corn seedling emerges as little as two days later that it is less productive and by the 4th day the plant will likely become more of a weed than a productive plant. Beans are MUCH more forgiving in varied emergence timing from cooler soils. Planting beans for a week first then doing the corn likely gets us several degrees warmer soils and thus more rapid-even emergence potentially. Yes, there could be years that we are warmer early followed by a cooler period thus flipping the soil temperature scenario but on average the later planting date will be warmer to help you out.

We will continue our research in this planting date flipping scenario. We are going to try to add early planting date corn & beans the same day vs. later planting date corn and beans the same day for comparison to see what the trials show us. Stay tuned.

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