Maximum soybean yields begin with best management practices

Farm Forum

When reviewing average soybean yields across the state, South Dakota State University researchers made a startling discovery – certified research plots were yielding 20-bushels per acre more than neighboring fields.

“A true indicator of an information gap if ever we saw one,” said Gregg Carlson, professor of Plant Science at SDSU. “If top producers and agronomists are growing soybeans that yield 20-bushels more per acre than their neighbors’ fields, then we needed to do something to bridge that gap.”

What Carlson and 57 other SDSU faculty, researchers and SDSU Extension staff did to bridge the information gap was team up with South Dakota soybean growers to compile a comprehensive manual filled with research-based best management practices for growing soybeans in South Dakota.

“This is the most complete set of best management practices ever published by a university anywhere. The science-based recommendations are based on research conducted in South Dakota and surrounding states,” said David Wright, Professor and Department Head of Plant Science at SDSU.

The iGrow Soybean Best Management Practices manual and iBook are free to South Dakota soybean producers, and contain the latest research-based information and recommendations on everything from row spacing, seed treatments and fertility, to pest and weed management.

“The great thing about this manual is there is a topic for every farmer; no matter what they are good at or struggle with,” said Matt Bainbridge, an Ethan soybean, corn and cattle producer.

Also a South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council board member, Bainbridge, 33, was one of several South Dakota soybean farmers consulted on what topics should be covered in the manual.

“This was truly a collaborative effort with soybean growers and their checkoff. They developed the table of contents and provided input,” said David Clay, Professor of Soil Science at SDSU and one of the manual’s six editors. “Farmers know what their problems are and have a good idea of what needs to be in the manual to address those questions.”

Funded in part by checkoff dollars through the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, Clay added that Bainbridge and other soybean growers continue to remain involved through regular communication with SDSU faculty and staff. As new, research-based information is discovered, that will be communicated with soybean growers. The manual, and continued investment in creating new knowledge, reinforce the value-added focus of the project explained Adam Herges, Market Development and Research Director for the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council.

“Agriculture is constantly changing with new information coming out all the time. We need to keep this manual relevant to today’s farmers,” said Herges.

He explained that for every bushel of soybeans U.S. farmers sell, they pay in a small percentage to the soybean checkoff. These dollars are used for education and research, as well as the promotion of new and emerging markets to help ensure the success of the soybean industry. “The South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council is a farmer-led organization which is charged with wisely investing and leveraging those checkoff dollars on behalf of South Dakota soybean farmers – iGrow Soybean Best Management Practices is a good example of those dollars being put to work for farmers,” Herges said.

In-Field Access to Information

Designed as an easy to use, go-to resource; the iGrow Soybean Best Management Practices manual is the first best practices manual published by SDSU Extension in both a print and iBook format.

“This is a 500-page manual. For our grower’s convenience it made sense to also publish it as an iBook,” said Lindsey Gerard, iGrow Technology Coordinator.

Gerard explains that not only does the iBook make the 500-plus pages of information portable, but it’s also easy to search. “Farmers don’t have to flip through the table of contents to find information they need. They simply search the iBook and all references pop-up.”

David Iverson, 55, would agree. The Toronto soybean farmer said that although the printed manual is easy to use, due to its size, it’s not a resource he can carry into the field with him.

“It’s very user friendly and makes the information readily accessible,” Iverson said. “As more of use multiple technologies, many of us already have an iPad with us in the tractor cab that we use for mapping or record keeping.”

Access to information was the overall focus of this project, as Clay explained.

“Throughout areas of South Dakota where soybeans are raised, we see a lot of room for yield improvement. This manual puts a roadmap to 100-bushel soybeans in producers’ hands,” Clay said.

This growing season Clay and a number of SDSU faculty and staff will work with farmers across South Dakota’s soybean country conducting several on-farm trials, the results of which will be included in future updates.

“By sharing research-based best practices, growers can rest assured that recommendations have already been tested and proven themselves to work in South Dakota soybean fields,” Clay said.

Now that the 2014 growing season is underway, Iverson says he’s already implemented some changes based on recommendations he found in the iGrow Soybean Best Management Practices.

“This year, I changed my row spacing based on research I read in the iBook,” Iverson said.

The iGrow Soybean Best Management Practices manual is available to all South Dakota soybean growers free of charge by contacting the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council or through the free iBook app on an iPad. To learn more or to participate in on-farm research, contact Gregg Carlson at or 605-688-4600.