Minimizing Yield Gap in Soybeans

Categories: PLANNING, SOYBEANS
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Yield gap is defined as the difference between measured soybean yield and yield potential. As a farmer, finding ways to minimize that gap is critical. With several potential factors contributing to yield loss, from weather to management, it can be tough to know where adjustments should be made.

Thanks to a regional survey project co-led by Shawn Conley, University of Wisconsin-Madison soybean and small grains agronomist, the Wisconsin Soybean Extension Program and Patricio Grassini, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, identifying possible yield gap causes just got easier. The program works to provide farmers with the latest soybean recommendations through research. Conley and his team have compiled diverse data, surveying thousands of producers with different climates, soil types and farming techniques from across the Midwest. By gathering data in this quantity they’re able to spot larger trends within this actively growing database and use those insights to recommend management tips. This research was funded by the North Central Soybean Research Program and many state QSSB’s such as the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board.

This project combines producer and weather data, which is segmented into different regions. These regions are called TEDs (Technology Extrapolation Domains) and are grouped based on factors such as soil type and climate. As a farmer, you’re able to identify which TED region your location falls into, and access data that can better explain potential yield gap causes. 

In a presentation at the Springfield, Illinois, Golden Harvest Winter Agronomy Summit, Conley discussed key management practices that influence yield gap:
  • Tillage: Impact of tillage varies by TED and can serve as a helpful tool for farmers. In areas where regulations on tillage are being discussed, you now have access to a strong database that shows if there is a yield penalty and that information can be used as an informed pushback. 
  • Foliar fungicide and insecticide application: In many TEDs, yield responses to prophylactic (preventative) applications range from 3-8 bu/A. Conley warns to “use these applications cautiously” due to potential for plant diseases, but this is food for thought.
  • Planting date: Based on data, the main effect on yield gap was delayed planting. Late soybean planting reduces yield potential up to 0.5 bu/A per day of delay after late April, but the magnitude on yield penalty varies across TEDs.
Gathering farmer data has allowed Conley and his team to utilize a big data approach to solve local yield gap issues. For more information on this project, contact Shawn Conley at spconley@wisc.edu or 608-262-7975.

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