Bumper yields start with basics
Not happy with your soybean yields compared to corn? Shaun Casteel, Purdue University Extension soybean specialist, believes the keys to bumping yields higher start with understanding the soybean plant better. Since it grows differently than corn, both when you make agronomic decisions and the type of decisions you make must be different.
This series is devoted to getting back to basics. Each installment will provide a tip to making a more informed management decision based upon understanding soybean growth habits. It will also include a short “check yourself” quiz.
• Understanding soybean basics leads to better decisions.
• Losing cotyledons is not significant if unifoliate, trifoliates remain.
• Check damaged soybean seedlings carefully before writing off a stand.
“Sometimes we forget that the soybean seed embryo has the first three vegetative parts inside — the cotyledons, unifoliate leaves and first trifoliate leaf,” Casteel says. “You may also not realize that compared to corn, which spikes through the ground, the hypocotyl pulls the cotyledons and growing point through the soil. The hypocotyl takes its position below the cotyledons.”
Suppose it rains after planting and soils crust. Hypocotyls have more problems than usual pulling cotyledons out of the ground. Some cotyledons break off. Is that the end of plants where cotyledons break?
Your fast reaction may be “yes,” since the growing point is encompassed by the cotyledons. The soybean’s growing point is above the soil surface as soon as it emerges, unlike corn, where the growing point stays below ground until about the fifth-leaf stage.
However, the loss of a cotyledon or two doesn’t mean the growing point is destroyed. If the unifoliate and trifoliate leaves aren’t damaged, the plant should develop normally.
“If one cotyledon breaks off, there may be no yield loss,” Casteel says. “If both break, it might impact yield about 2% to 7%, mainly because it delays growth.”
If the hypocotyl breaks at ground level, then, yes, the plant is done and won’t regrow.
So when you’re making decisions after bad crusting, don’t let a few missing cotyledons influence you, he notes. First check to see if actual growing points are still intact.
This article published in the February, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.