For soybean farmers, maximum crop yield is a top goal. The pod fill period, when soybean pods develop and fill with seeds, is a critical stage to assure those high yields.
Three fundamental factors can help unlock a soybean crop’s complete potential and ensure an ideal pod fill. Multiple factors come into play with a successful pod fill, but proper plant nutrition, soil management, and environmental factors are all at the forefront.
1. Proper plant nutrition
Adequate nutrition is vital for healthy pod development and optimal seed production. Some plant nutritional factors to consider are:
Balanced fertilization: A nutrient management plan is crucial during the pod fill stage to ensure balanced nutrient supply. Farmers often focus on the macronutrients (N, P, and K). While these nutrients are critical, soybean plants also require several others for grain fill. Micronutrients like zinc, boron, magnesium, iron, copper, and sulfur are essential at this time. Soil testing and regular crop monitoring can help you identify deficiencies and promptly address them with targeted fertilization.
Fertilizer timing and placement: Efficient nutrient uptake requires fertilizer applications at the right time and in the right place. For a steady nutrient supply during critical growth periods, consider split applications, which deploy fertilizers in multiple stages throughout the growing season.
Foliar nutrition: Supplementing soil fertilization with foliar nutrition can be beneficial during pod fill. Foliar sprays with appropriate nutrient solutions can provide a quick, targeted boost to plants and ensure they have the necessary resources for robust pod development.
2. Soil health and fertility
Proper soil fertility and health help ensure successful soybean pod fill. With appropriate nutrient management, pH balance, and organic matter incorporation, soybean growers can create a fertile, supportive soil environment for robust pod development and maximum yield potential.
Soil pH: The optimal soybean pH range is between 6.0-7.0. Balanced pH allows better nutrient uptake and biological N-fixation throughout the season. If soil pH is too low (acidic), consider applying lime to raise the pH and improve nutrient availability. Lime application should happen well before planting to allow enough time for it to react with the soil and adjust the pH.
Organic matter: Improving organic matter content and overall soil health positively influences soybean pod fill. To enhance soil fertility and water-holding capacity, incorporate organic matter through practices such as cover cropping, crop residue management, and adding organic amendments. Healthy soils with good structure and microbial activity create favorable growing conditions for soybean roots, which facilitates nutrient uptake and efficient pod fill.
3. Taking environmental conditions into account
Being aware of the stresses soybeans are under—and their influence on pod fill—is essential to maximize yield potential. Implement the following strategies to manage these challenges:
Scouting and early detection: Regularly scout your fields to monitor for signs of pests and diseases. Early detection allows for timely intervention, which minimizes potential pod or seed damage.
The weather: Ample sunshine and soil moisture are necessary for a thriving soybean crop. The reproductive stages are the most crucial period for soybean plants’ water requirements. Approximately 65% of the total water soybeans utilize throughout the growing season is consumed from the onset of bloom (R1) until the full green seed stage (R6). During peak usage, soybean plants can consume approximately 0.32 inches of water per day.
Integrated pest management (IPM): An integrated pest management approach combines preventive measures, cultural practices, and targeted pesticide applications when necessary. This holistic strategy helps maintain a balance between pest control and environmental sustainability.
Fungal disease prevention: Soybeans are susceptible to various fungal diseases that can impact pod fill. Implement preventative measures such as crop rotation, selecting disease-resistant varieties, and applying fungicides (when warranted) to minimize disease pressure and maximize pod development.
Late-season attention: Sixty percent of soybean yields come from nodes 7 through 13, so protecting these later in the season is crucial. Adding an insecticide to a fungicide pass will control defoliating and sucking pests, which helps growers keep the soybean plant “factory” running at its highest potential.
The bottom line
- Successful soybean pod fill and maximum crop yield requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses proper plant nutrition, soil health and fertility, and environmental considerations.
- To support robust pod development and seed fill, balance nutrient levels, optimize soil pH, incorporate organic matter, and implement pest and disease management strategies.
Every farm and field is unique, and an agronomist can tailor insights to your specific conditions. Contact your AgriGold agronomist for personalized recommendations to fine-tune your nutrient management, address soil health concerns, and optimize environmental factors for successful soybean pod fill.