ISU researcher looking for Iowa farmers who want to increase soybean yields

AMES, Iowa - As farmers harvest their crops this fall and start looking at income, many will ask, "What can I do to increase my yields?"

An Iowa State University researcher is putting into practice some ideas that he hopes will show results in the form of bin-busting yields and more income for farmers, and he needs help from farmers to do it.

Palle Pedersen, an associate professor of agronomy and soybean Extension agronomist, is researching ways to increase soybean production mostly through better farming techniques.

For part of his research, Pedersen will be sending out surveys to 600 farmers around the state to find out more about farmers' yields and production techniques.

Based on the data he gets from the survey, Pedersen will then identify farmers to help test his new production techniques against the farmers' established methods.

"I am going to farm part of one of their fields for them in large scale, and they are going to farm the rest of the fields the way they normally do," said Pedersen. "We are going to identify things they may be able to improve on the farm and work on how we can move their yield up. Genetically, soybean yield potential in this state is above 100 bushels per acre."

Soybean yields average around 50 bushels per acre.

The research is funded by the Iowa Soybean Association's soybean checkoff.

Pedersen says some of his methods may only be small changes to what the farmer is already doing.

"We are looking at how to fine tune some of the management decisions," said Pedersen.

His research shows that some farming practices work better with different types of soybean varieties.

"We are looking at how management decisions interact with genetics," he said.

Pedersen believes the changes in production techniques could increase yields dramatically.

"This year I had varieties that in replicated studies produce yield above 100 bushels per acre," Pedersen said. "I have never been able to do that over three replications before.

"We know that we have good soils in Iowa and good climate and know that we can get very high yields. Now we are looking at how we can unlock it for the majority of farmers and help them achieve these very high yields."

The research is also looking at crop rotation methods and the effect that has on soybean production.

"We are also going to work with different genetics in different tillage systems to see what's happening there. Looking at the long-term sustainability of corn and soybean rotations and what we can do to improve it," he said. "We want to maintain the productivity of the system that we have that has been so successful."

While Pedersen has been able to achieve huge yields on his test plots, he realizes that there is a difference between potential yield and actual yield.

"There is a difference between what is theoretical and what is practical," he said. "You can ask any farmer out there when they drive a combine across a field, they will go into areas where the field monitor shows them they are getting 80 bushels per acre. There are also areas that are giving them 20 bushels per acre."

Once Pedersen completes his research, the next challenge he faces is to get the farmers to adapt to the new methods.

"To change some of these things, it is important to get out there and show the farmers what's going on," said Pedersen. "And maybe get some neighbors over and see what is going on. We have the potential."