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Southeast Minnesota soybeans on target for successful harvest

Excellent growing conditions and good soils could result in top-end soybean yields in Southeast Minnesota this year, according to Ryan Miller, educator with the University of Minnesota Extension.

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Ryan Miller, University of Minnesota Extension educator, looks at soybean crops growing at UMN's Lawler Farm on Sept. 12, 2022, in Rochester, Minnesota.
Noah Fish / Agweek
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ROCHESTER, Minn. — A slight delay in planting this year was the only hiccup in an otherwise ideal growing season for soybeans in southeast Minnesota.

Ryan Miller, University of Minnesota Extension educator, predicted a strong soybean harvest in the region while scouting plants on Sept. 12 at UMN’s Lawler Farm just east of Rochester.

Two different planting dates of soybeans are growing at the site where applied research work is conducted by UMN Extension with the University of Minnesota Southern Research & Outreach Center.

Garden spot

The southeastern part of the state is known as the “garden spot” for growing crops, said Miller, even in a growing season that began a little late.

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“Our first real big push on planting was probably May 5-6, when a lot of acres started to get planted,” said Miller of planting in southeast Minnesota.

Delayed planting in the region was followed by “excellent” growing conditions, said Miller, with temperature and precipitation patterns holding adequate all season long, aside from a stretch or two of drier conditions more recently.

“But with some of our soil types, we had plenty of soil moisture available to bring the crop through some of those little bit drier periods,” said Miller. “And even during the dry period, we were still picking up about an inch of rain per week, so it wasn't really all that dry.”

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Soybean crops growing at the University of Minnesota Extension's Lawler Farm on Sept. 12, 2022 in Rochester, Minnesota.
Noah Fish / Agweek

He said that soybean crops in the region are now starting to enter a mature phase, meaning it won’t be long until harvest begins. That puts area soybean growers in position to harvest a good crop this year.

“We're pretty much right on target,” he said.

Small setbacks

As far as disease, Miller said farmers farther west in southeast Minnesota faced a higher presence of Phytophthora this year, but he said the situation was “not terrible.” Diseases that show up later in the growing season, including white mold, sudden death syndrome and brown stem rot, have started to appear more in the area, he said, but not to the extent that worries him.

Soybean aphids were a pest concern that Miller said they expected to worry about this year at Lawler Farm. Feeding by soybean aphids can reduce yield and quality, and soybean aphids can also transmit viruses to soybean, said Miller.

“At the farm here we've scouted prolifically (for soybean aphids) as well as several other farms in the area,” said Miller, who worked with an intern on the field work.

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He said that aphid numbers initially seemed to be increasing, but then remained static, and ended up being “quite low” throughout the season.

“We never ended up spraying any of our projects,” he said.

Home stretch

Miller said it’s now a waiting game until October for crops to turn to a harvestable condition, which he said is “dry enough to pick and put in the bin.” He estimated that around Oct. 9-10 the harvest in southeast Minnesota would be in full swing, which he said would be “pretty typical” for the region.

“Certainly there will be fields that are picked before that,” he said.

Soybean harvest will begin with the number of growers who planted earlier maturity soybeans this year, which Miller said have turned “quite yellow” and are losing a lot of leaves.

“But for most of the fields we see around here ... it's gonna be a while yet,” said Miller. “They're starting to turn, but we've got some time here.”

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Ryan Miller, University of Minnesota Extension educator, looks at soybean crops growing at UMN's Lawler Farm on Sept. 12, 2022 in Rochester, Minnesota.
Noah Fish / Agweek

The only real threat left to plants nearing the finish line is future weather, and Miller said if things turned consistently cloudy and rainy, that would be detrimental to the crop.

“Everybody remembers — in this part of the state at least — fall of 2019,” he said. “October was a rough month, and it turned cold and wet.”

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Fortunately after a cool and damp October that year, Miller said things turned around in November when things froze more. Still, he said the season turned into a “real mess.”

“Hopefully now we don't start picking up excessive rainfall, that would be a bad thing,” he said. “I certainly think we’re in good shape right now.”

Top-end yields

Southeast Minnesota is known for producing good soybean yields, said Miller, especially in years like this one.

“We got consistent and adequate moisture, and a lack of insect or disease pressure,” he said.

He said it’s not uncommon for soybean yields to reach 80 bushels per acre and higher in the region.

“We can hit the 80 bushel mark here pretty easily,” he said. “But typically, in the upper 60s for an average would probably be right.”

Miller credits productive soils throughout southeast Minnesota — which he said have the capacity to hold a lot of water — as the driving force for higher yields. He said during drier stretches there is always a “bank” of moisture for plants to rely on.

“The land we're actually standing on right now, with the soil types here, are some of the most productive ag lands in the Upper Midwest for sure, and probably the country,” said Miller of southeast Minnesota.

Noah Fish is a multimedia journalist who creates print, online and TV content for Agweek. He's also the host of the Agweek Podcast.

While covering agriculture he's earned awards for his localized reporting on the 2018 trade war, and breaking news coverage of a fifth-generation dairy farm that was forced to sell its herd when a barn roof collapsed in the winter of 2019. His reporting focuses on the intersection of agriculture, food and culture.

He reports out of Rochester, Minnesota, and can be reached at nfish@agweek.com
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