Renewable Farming

Got late beans? Two top advisers offer their yield-builder advice

Variations in crops are so dramatic this year that it may be January before there’s a rough consensus on actual yields and harvested acres. We’ve been visiting with farmers and consultants, asking what they’re recommending to accelerate growth to make the most of every growing degree day. Soon we’ll post a compilation of their ideas, fused with ours. Meanwhile, here’s a reprint of what two advisers are suggesting. 

July 5, 2019 — First, consultant Bob Streit e-mailed the recommendations to clients this afternoon.  Second, AgriEnergy Resources in Princeton, IL sent clients some general concepts in their “GroundWork” series.


By Bob Streit crop consultant, Boone, IA

Late planted soybeans face several challenges. They stay shorter and form fewer branches, making podded node counts lower. Adding additional branches, supplying minerals, boosting energy supply (sugars) for the plant and for the rhizosphere microbes are key.

Applying root growth promoting hormones (cytokines) and supplementing planter placed or residual fertilizer with foliars helps, as uptake by the plant is faster and more complete.

As an example: Dave P farms about ten miles north of me. He used to harvest the first cutting of hay for his cattle, then disk the stubble and plant beans around June 15th. He was usually getting yields of 23 to 25 Bu/A and did not think higher yields were possible. After learning about the high yield techniques of the top bean growers we changed his management to where he was making two or three foliar applications beginning when the beans reached V3-4.

He applied a three-way blend of half rates of MicroMix, Foliar Blend and Respire. Then when the beans began to flower, he would apply a mixture of sugar, food grade P&K, and a host of other things. In time a product involving a mix of 17 different items called Seed Set (SS) was developed. It included foliar calcium to build strength into the added branches, sugar to initiate more flowering and shorten the internodes, P to transport energy, and B12 to stimulate the leaf and soil dwelling microbes.

Once the Seed Set was available, we would apply it twice about two to three weeks apart after R1. When the growing season was very short, the three-way mix was added to the first 2 quarts of Seed Set. Any needed fungicide or insecticide was applied prior to row closure by adding it to the second application of Seed Set.

After Dave began to use this program, he saw a regular increase of about 25+ Bu/A. Narrowing rows to 15” helped him boost his bean yields another 5 Bu/A.

So this program worked great for him, and added only one extra trip. Part of the success was likely the application of a hormone-producing bacteria that typically adds 4 to 9 extra branches on each plant. Varieties vary as to how much they branch. Breeders now select for branch number and raceme formation. This program can be used on beans planted on time. Keeping the plants shorter with closely spaced internodes allows late season applications to be made to increase seed size.

This program has worked well with other growers who desired to aim for higher bean yields. It allows growers to manipulate plant architecture and influence plant physiology. Keeping the plants short and well fed is key. The ‘bulking’ of seed typically involves mixtures of K, S, and Mg. Yield contest winner Kip Cullers of Missouri grew beans on this program that yielded 154 Bu/A and checked out at 1,915 seeds per pound. We are advising the use at R4 of Nutra Boost from AgriGuardian, formulated by Dave Sasseville.

Spray Schedule

V3-V4: 8oz Foliar Blend, 8 oz MicroMix, 4 oz Respire, 2 oz Moly and 1 oz Hormonal bacteria.

R1 (usually June 21 st ): 2 qts of Seed Set. Add an additional 2 qts of food grade N-P-K if time is crucial.

R3 (typically July 20-25 th ): 2 qts of Seed Set. Add the extra .5 to 2 gals of N-P-K to speed development if time is crucial, as it supplies additional building material. Include a strobe fungicide or strobe/carboxamide mix of fungicides for Septoria control. This fungus causes yellowing and loss of lower leaves after rows closure.

R4 -4.5: If the plants stay short and a ground rig can get thru, apply 1 -2 gals of Nutra Boost to bulk the seed. This mix of K, S and Mg can be aerial applied as well. The Seed Set’s chelated Ca serves to add stem strength.

Our comment: The years-long series of field measurements that generated the Seed Set mix occurred mostly before our WakeUP came on the scene. We’d suggest adding 5 ounces of WakeUP Summer in the nutrient/biostimulant/microbial blend with all five of these foliar applications. In general, Wakeup enhances NPK and “bio” yield performance — if a foliar mix bumps yields 4 bu. sprayed without WakeUP, then adding WakeUP in solution can generate another 2 to 3 bushels for a cost of $3.52 per acre.


AgriEnergy Resources’ observations

Now that crops have emerged and are growing rapidly, a fair question to consider is: Can a foliar fertilizer application, including SP-1™, improve yield potential?

Yes! Especially, when using organic fertilizers on alfalfa. We’ve witnessed how a foliar application, that included SP-1™, improved nutrient uptake on an alfalfa/grass hay field during a trial in Minnesota: 

  • Control (no foliar fertilizer) – RFV (Relative Feed Value) of 101
  • With 3 gal/acre Dramm fish – RFV of 163
  • With SP-1™ added to the Dramm fish – RFV of 181

These numbers tell us two things: 

  1. A  small amount of fertilizer foliar-applied can make a significant difference. 
  2. The inclusion of SP-1™ made the fertilizer even more effective.  

The reason for that is many of the foliar fertilizer products we use, such as fish, are not completely plant available, but when broken down microbially virtually all of their nutrients can be absorbed through the leaf tissues. This is particularly true of nutrients like the fine calcium/phosphorus particles that are suspended in some fish products.

Some tend to think of applying a foliar only in terms of feeding the plant more nutrients and overlook the important role microbiology can play. We encourage you to think about the microbiology that is always, for better or for worse, present on the surfaces of the plant. Because, as we see from the example above, your plants may not have the organisms resident on their leaves to get the most out of foliar fertilizer.

You may not grow alfalfa, and as impressive as turning low-quality hay into high-quality with a single foliar is, you might feel this information has no use to you. Perhaps not.  

On the other hand, this planting season has been historically exceptional for many Midwestern growers. Between late plantings and planting into marginal conditions, this could be the year where an early season foliar, including micronutrients, could pay.  

Crops planted into wet soils often have confined and under-developed roots systems. As such, they become a relatively poor feeder. If this describes your situation, an early foliar, including micronutrients, could help your crops burst through some of the limitations nature placed on it this year.

Even if you don’t include a good slow release fertilizer like fish, SP-1™ still has a place. It makes synthetic fertilizers release more smoothly by buffering them. In other words, some of the applied nutrients get absorbed by the organisms in SP-1™ very quickly and then release over a longer period of time. That avoids any shock to the plant’s system and allows the plant to use the added nutrients at a rate it deems best.

Put another way, including SP-1™ increases the odds that these types of foliar fertilizer applications will be effective and profitable over a wider range of environmental conditions at the time they are sprayed. Products that are a little too salty, a little too acid, or contain a bit too much ammonium are buffered, or “safened”, by SP-1™