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Technologies to Potentially Enhance Soybean Production

There is no doubt that soybean is a major commodity crop in the U.S. Its processed components are used for both animal feed and human food in this country and abroad. It is arguably the most versatile of the commodity crops that are cultivated throughout the world.

According to NASS, there was an average of 84.2 million acres of soybeans harvested in the U.S. in the 2017-2021 period. The crop is grown under myriad conditions and production systems (i.e., till and no-till, rotated and monocropped, single- and double-crop, irrigated and nonirrigated). With this many acres devoted to soybeans that are grown in the various systems, there is the need to constantly upgrade the processes and inputs that are used/needed to continue to support the production of a high-yielding, high-quality U.S. soybean crop, about half of which is exported. Some of the newer technologies that can be used to enhance the soybean production environment are highlighted below.

Radicle Agronomics soil sampling system from Precision Planting represents a new approach to soil sampling and testing that can be used by professional agronomists. This new approach is composed of a suite of tools that include the following.

•    GeoPress is a device that can attach to any field-ready vehicle such as an ATV. This device grinds and mixes soil samples from one sample area and fills a soil sampling tube called a GeoTube. Each GeoTube is traced to the sampling spot through GPS and is identified with a radio-frequency identification (RFID)-coded tube. The GeoPress and GeoTube eliminate the need for handling the sample and placing it in the commonly used soil sample bags.

•    Radicle Lab is a fully automated, self-cleaning, and self-calibrating soil laboratory that automatically processes one sample tube after another without human handling. Racks that feed the lab hold 400 GeoTubes. The first step in this process is moving the soil into solution, and pumps and valves move the resulting fluids through ultrathin manifolds. Reagents are added individually to get pH, P, and K.

•    Data from Radicle Lab goes to the cloud, then to computer devices such as hand-held devices, tablets, or desktop computers. Results are available instantly after processing by Radicle Lab, and Radicle Agronomics software is used to develop fertilizer recommendations based on the results for each sample site.

Click here to access a White Paper on this website that discusses the details of soil sampling.

Terrasym 401 and Terrasym 409 from Newleafsym Symbiotics are microbial inoculants that are designed to be applied with soybean seed either as a seed treatment or as a hopper box treatment. These products use naturally occurring pink-pigmented facultative methylotrophs (PPFMs), which form a symbiotic relationship with the intended crop (e.g. soybean). The company promotes these two PPFM products as biostimulants that will increase nutrient uptake and complement traditional crop protection products. A White Paper titled “Soil Microbes and Soil Biology” posted on this website provides details about the current philosophy regarding the use of soil additives and/or biologicals to enhance soybean production. Click here for an article titled “News About Soil Additives and Biologicals”and here for an article titled “The Soil Microbiome: Its Importance and Need for Enhancement” that provide additional details about the soil and its microbial population.

The Croptimus AI technology from Fermata is not yet available for soybean, but it is certainly something to be aware of when it does finally become available for commodity crops such as soybean. The company projects that its use will reduce scouting costs and crop losses by automatically scouting for both insect and disease pests.

BioAg Solutions from Novozymes is a portfolio of biological solutions–e.g. microbial inoculant, biostimulant, and biocontrol solutions–that are derived from naturally occurring microbes and enzymes. Novozymes has joined with Certis Biologicals to develop biological controls for fungal pathogens in corn and soybeans. Use of biological products in the fight against crop pests could reduce the likelihood of their developing resistance to applied control measures.

The above narrative in no way intends to endorse any of the mentioned technologies. Rather, it is an attempt to provide producers with insight into how these new developments might be used to improve production agriculture and/or production efficiency. Also, some or all of the above-cited developments may not accomplish their intended purpose(s) when used in an actual production environment, and thus will not be adopted. However, all of them show that there is an ongoing effort to explore, research, and develop new technologies that can potentially be used to thwart the myriad problems that face producers, or improve the efficiency of their crop production enterprise. At the very least, progress with the above and other forthcoming developments should be followed by producers so that those that are truly worthwhile can be adopted on a wide scale in the Midsouth.

Composed by Larry G. Heatherly, Sept. 2022, larryh91746@gmail.com