Last fall's difficult fall harvest could mean an equally challenging spring planting season for soybean farmers, says Shaun Casteel, Purdue University Extension soybean specialist.

Wet, cool conditions that prevented some Midwest producers from finishing corn and soybean harvests until November or December also prevented many farmers from tilling the soil and applying post-harvest fertilizers, he notes. That could have consequences this crop season.

Also, the wet fall caused harvest equipment to rut fields. "We just wanted to get the crop out of the field, and so we didn't get tillage in there to break up the soil compaction that resulted from those ruts," Casteel says. So there will be cases where the tillage didn't get done, and producers may try to do it this spring, which could delay planting.

"We've got nearly 70 percent of our soybean acres in no-till anyway, and it's going to be hard for someone to bring out a disk to fill in ruts. But that's likely one of the best options in severe areas. Otherwise, we're just going to have to roll the dice and drill beans in this year and see if we can take care of any 2009 harvest compaction with tillage this fall."

Another problem that could emerge for soybeans this year is potassium deficiency, he adds. Soybeans need potassium for enzyme and nutrient use, protein production and other physiological functions. Potassium is usually applied to fields once harvest is over in order to give the spring soybean crop a healthy start.

"Most farmers I talk with say they are putting potassium out before the upcoming corn crop," Casteel says. "That's fine, but when you go back a year-- to fall 2008-- fertilizer prices were really high. So  in a lot of cases potassium was cut or wasn't applied at all.

"Add that to the delayed 2009 harvest, and we're going to have some potential shortcomings in our maximum yield potential in beans."

Some Indiana soybean fields in 2009 were hit with sclerotinia stem rot or white mold. The fungal disease infects the plant at flowering and can lead to plant death. White mold infection is greatest in cool, wet weather-- the kind of conditions that were common in many soybean fields last summer.

"White mold is environmentally driven," Casteel notes. "If a producer had problems with white mold last year, they might want to check the resistance ratings for the varieties they're planting this year. Some of the new varieties provided good resistance and some didn't."

Farmers also can choose new soybean varieties that are tolerant to Ignite herbicide, a new formulation of the former Liberty herbicide, he says. The LibertyLink system is an alternative to varieties tolerant to glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup herbicide.

"In terms of the varieties that are available now, in looking just on the yield scale, we've got some great opportunities to yield high in our soybeans," Casteel says. "But just because it's a new variety doesn't mean that it's the best variety for your farm. Look at yield consistency with yield potential."

It's worth a producer's time to do their homework and look at independent trials. In Purdue trials in 2009 alone results ranged from 6 to 12 bushels variation in the high- to the low-yielding soybean varieties. "If we had $10 beans, that's a $60 to $120 per acre management decision," he adds.

You can access the 2008 and 2009 Purdue soybean trial reports online.

General information about soybean production is available on the Purdue Soybean Management Web site.

 Source: Purdue University