12/22/2012 7:00 AM
By Tabitha Goodling Central Pa. Correspondent
MIFFLINTOWN, Pa. — Fifteen years ago, rows of soybean plants were not a common site in fields across central Pennsylvania.
Today, roughly a quarter of farms in the area plant the crop, and interest continues to grow, said Greg Hostetter, Cooperative Extension director for Juniata County.
Soybean workshops were held this past week in counties across the state, including Juniata.
Those in attendance at the Walker Grange near Mifflintown included farmers who have been working with soybeans and looking for a better way to plant. Others were new to the idea and wanted more information.
An overview of planting and maintaining soybeans was given, as well as input from local farmers who have experience with the plant.
Del Voight of the Lebanon County Cooperative Extension and Department of Crop and Soil Sciences spent three years in Iowa working on research with soybean plants. He recounted some statistics and the pros and cons of planting soybeans.
“A big argument is, Is planting beans worth it instead of corn?’ ” he said.
A research article on the Iowa State University website said soybeans are the “primary production rotation in Iowa,” mainly because they produce better yields than corn and require less nitrogen fertilizer, all topics discussed at the workshop.
Voight said advantages included the fact that soybeans require less storage.
“It requires a third of the storage and trucking of corn . There is a huge cost difference,” he said.
Soybean planting also cuts back on deer population in the fields.
Voight’s statistics showed 378,000 acres in Pennsylvania in 2010 produced soybeans.
“We’re seeing an increase over time,” he said.
Hostetter noted the market is increasing.
“The demand for soybean oil and soybean meal has grown locally and nationally,” he said, pointing out that businesses that press the beans are more common in the central part of the state than they were in the past.
Success is dependent on an understanding of how the crop needs to grow because of its differences from corn growth.
Yield varies from 40 to 90 bushels per acre across the state.
Matt Metz and Dervin Hart, local farmers, spoke about their experience. On average, their two farms produced 60 bushels per acre.
Both farmers use a 15-inch row planting method. The biggest challenge for Metz has been battling slugs in his crop.
“Almost all of our beans go in after the corn, and then we get the slugs,” he said.
Voight spent some time going over the growth process and helping the farmers understand the stages in order to better treat issues that may impair the growth.
The two stages of soybeans are vegetative and reproductive. He explained that the plant begins as green tissue and no flower, and is not heat dependent but in need of light.
Hart said he plants his soybeans early in April. The earlier the planting (April and May) the larger yield.
“Sixty degrees is ideal,” Voight said of spring temperatures, and plants will jump to an inch or higher.
“That longest day in June will trigger the flowering and put you in the reproductive stage,” he said.
That time in June, Voight explained, is “sensitive to altered source strength and crop growth.”
By the time the reproduction is in its fourth stage and the nodule is three-fourths of an inch, it is the “start of the critical yield determination.”
Once the pod turns brown, it is almost time for harvest.
Voight stressed the importance of understanding the stages of the soybean’s development to have success and good yield. He recommended the website www.soybeanmanagement.info/.
Voight also discussed seed treatment and mentioned success in using molybdedum, a micro-nutrient, which can change the coloration of the plant and affect the nodules.
“It produced only a small bump in the yield,” however, he said.
More information is available at http://cornandsoybeans.psu.edu/.