or the second time in three years, Jimmy Frederick has set a new world record for rain-fed soybeans, producing 148.8 bu/A over a 5-acre area on his Rulo, Nebraska, farm. This tops his own mark of 138 bu/A set in 2018 in the very same field.
Supported by root systems resembling those of “baby trees,” Frederick described a typical plant as being waist high, with 5-7 lateral branches, and producing 450-500 pods.
To achieve such a feat, you’d think everything had to go perfect. But for Frederick, who farms 2,500 acres of corn and soybeans across terraces, hills and bottom ground in the southwest corner of Nebraska, that was anything but the case.
Just after he planted his AgriGold 3520 soybeans on April 21, 50-mph winds blew across his field and helped form a heavy crust atop of the soil. It took nearly three weeks for the plants to emerge.
“I planted deeper than usual, at two inches, and after two weeks I thought that might not have been the way to go,” laughed Frederick. “I almost ripped it up and started over.”
But when the plants did emerge, they shot up uniformly and maintained strong vigor, aided by a biological seed treatment package from Biovante that included BioCore and Invade 5G seed inoculants. Once plants reached the V5 stage, they showed excellent plant health with a near perfect stand count. That’s when he first realized it could be a special year.
While yield-breaking growers are often associated with using high levels of crop inputs, Frederick takes the opposite approach. He’s found that less is more. That starts with population rates that vary between 30,000 to 90,000 seeds per acre. If this sounds more like corn planting, that was purely his intent in 2020.
“I basically used the same settings to plant both my corn and soybeans,” says Frederick, who runs a John Deere 1770 on 30-inch rows. “This year I used 27-hole planter plates and kept the depth at two inches. In the past, I used 76-, then 56-hole soybean plates, but to achieve the consistently wider spacing I was looking for, I gave this a try.”
While Frederick said his record yield was achieved at 70,000 spa, most of the field was planted at far lower rates. The entire 204-acre field averaged better than 90 bu/A.
“We’re getting more air and sunlight to our plants, creating healthier plants, lots of branching and way fewer pod abortions,” noted Frederick. “Plus, we’ve eliminated all the yellowing on the bottom leaves. We now have 4-bean pods on the top and bottom branches.”
These lower, intensively managed plant populations better prepared him for what the remainder of 2020 had in store.
“With lower populations, you definitely have fewer mouths to feed,” he explained. “We got 27 inches of rain from April through July, and our annual rainfall is 34 inches. With so much rain early, the plant root structure was more horizontal than vertical than I’d like. Then the water shut off in July and we only received two inches the rest of the season with very high heat levels.”
While adding that “when you lower plant populations, you must make every seed count,” Frederick said he pays close attention to the energy curve of his plants, so he can regulate how the plant performs at each stage of growth. This includes frequent tissue sampling and timely applications of Biovante biological products, specialty fertilizers and fungicides throughout the season. He typically makes 5-7 trips across his field.
Seed population isn’t the only thing that Frederick has lowered. He’s not used a dry fertilizer product for five years and also dramatically slashed fertilizer and other input costs. His focus is on improving both the health of his soil and the strength of his plants.
“BioRed is a microbial product that really improves nitrogen fixation,” say Frederick. “Even on these high yielded fields, I’ve never applied any additional nitrogen to my soybeans.
“Six years ago I came to the realization that I needed to adopt a different system for farming, one that focused on soil health, crop rotation, low plant populations and less dependence of synthetic products,” concluded Frederick. “That’s when I reached out to Chris Masters at Biovante, and we’ve been refining that system every year since.”