Renewable Farming

Research agronomist finds a 13% increase in soybean yield — accidentally

Over the years, we’ve commissioned research agronomist James Porterfield for several field tests into the performance of WakeUP products. He’s a thorough field trial designer and analyst. One of his passions is finding the “perfect soil” — with emphasis on the mineral analysis.

November 14, 2018 — But this week, Jim sent us a research summary which puzzles him. Soybean plots which he had enclosed within a solar-powered electric fence grew taller and yielded 13.2% more than beans just outside the fence.

This was an accidental discovery: The fence was put up only to keep out deer, which actually didn’t bother his entire field of soybeans, fenced or not. So Jim rules out the benefit of deer protection to explain the visible growth difference and yield gain inside the cordoned area.

Jim’s soybeans in the vicinity of this patch look to us like a low priority on his agenda of field projects this season. Apparently he couldn’t get out there early to slow down invading grassy weeds; had to spray them later. Full disclosure: That has happened to us too. We’ve also dealt with deer damage on our Renewable Farming strips of corn and beans. By fall, patches inside our cornfields have often looked like feedlots, forcing us to abandon several test projects. 

In Jim’s field — see the photo below — there’s a visible difference in maturity and height. We’re also linking to Jim’s PDF summary of his report which you can download and puzzle over. It reads like a chapter in the intriguing book Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird.

Over the past 40 years we’ve examined, and played with, various energy sources as a means of encouraging plant growth. But never anything as simple as a solar-charged, pulsing electric fence.

So, enjoy Jim’s report, and if you have some theories or clear-cut answers, let us know and we’ll share your insight with Jim — and other farmers.

Here’s a drone shot of the plot taken in July. You can readily see the enclosed area of beans are darker green and more dense.

The photo captions are written by Jim Porterfield.