Corn is king, but Nebraska growers planting more soybeans

A Case IH tractor rolls through a York area field in April 2017 (NTV News)

Farmers hit the fields, sowing the seeds they hope will bring profits this fall.

And the tractors rolling are likely putting corn in the ground.

“Corn still is king to a lot of people,” Extension Educator Jenny Rees said.

But soybeans could take the crown.

Rees said, “It's estimated to be up in Nebraska this year.”

The USDA expects a ten percent rise in soybean acres in Nebraska, while corn acres are projected to drop three percent in the state.

The interest in soybeans is all about where many growers expect their best chance to make some money.

That likely means beans planted in fields where beans were harvested last fall, which can increase weed and disease pressure.

“There’s really not that much of a yield penalty for the first one to three years of soybean after soybean,” Rees said. “The research shows that it's not as big of a yield penalty as what some may think.”

She says growers may want to rethink their planting strategy, ad get beans in the ground sooner than they're used to. The data shows planting soybeans in late April and early May brings the best yields.

She said, “If they can, maybe spilt up planting some corn and some soybeans early, maybe consider having someone plant soybeans while you're planting corn.”

Research finds farmers could save more than $10 an acre, with no yield loss, by lowering soybean seed rates. Rees said there’s a law of diminishing returns, and the benefits of seeding rates up to 180,000 per acre are limited.

There can be benefits to planting early, and weather is starting to feel more seasonable.

York County grower Jerry Stahr said, “It is gorgeous out here, and nice to be in this weather planting.”

He took a break from planting to visit with Rees.

She cautions that farmers need to keep an eye on soil temperature. Soils should be 50 degrees for at least the first 48 hours after planting. She said farmers can stick a meat thermometer in the ground about four inches before planting, to see what soil conditions are in a given field.

And as the planters start rolling, her goal is to equip farmers like Jerry with the best information for a successful year.

She said, “What are research proven ways that we can reduce input costs or increase yields and benefit producers and hopefully strengthen the ag economy in general.”

Even with soybean acres up, corn will still dominate Nebraska's landscape; But nationwide, the two crops are dead even, and wheat acres are a 100-year low.

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