Harvest time results tell the story of what worked and what didn’t each season.

In 2021, more farmers than ever before began planting soybeans a week or two earlier than they normally would. Here are a few of the many things you should consider if you’re planning to get an early jump on soybean planting on your farm next year.

Overall Strategy:

Our advice on planting soybeans early is to wait for the first day crop insurance will cover soybeans in your area. Then, if the soil conditions are fit, you should start planting. Use a complete soybean seed treatment including three or four fungicides, insecticide, and Naturals such as Heat Shield and Nutri-Cycle. Farmers who did the opposite this year took a lot of unnecessary risk and often ran into problems.

Goal of Early Planting:

Reaching flowering earlier so you have more of the longest days of the summer where your soybeans are in full reproduction is the target of early planting. This leads to more yield potential, which is the ultimate goal.

Weed Control:

Planting early gives the false impression that there is plenty of time to get a residual herbicide program applied later. It rarely works that way. Use the “3 Pre” program of a yellow (Prowl or Trifluralin), metribuzin, and a PPO (Authority or Valor). Apply that program either right before or right after planting so there’s enough time to get some rain to activate it before weeds begin to emerge. A big advantage of early planting is you should reach crop canopy quicker to help choke out late-season weed escapes.

Selecting Maturity:

There was a lot of talk about early maturity beans being planted early to get to flowering sooner. The reality was you really had to shorten up the maturities significantly to make that happen. A great way to test this theory on your farm is to do a few strips of beans that are a full maturity group different and see when they flower comparatively. Personally, I haven’t seen enough difference to suggest doing this. Don’t get me wrong. Early maturity beans can still yield well and can be used on a limited basis on your farm to get some early harvest bonuses and to spread your risk. However, the full-season beans for your area still are likely to yield as well or better if managed appropriately. This season, the advantage for the later-season beans was they were able to fully utilize the rains in August and early September that many fields received.

Downside Risks:

A springtime frost is what most farmers worry about when planting early. The truth is, soybeans can take a little frost, especially at the cotyledon stage. Also, by planting a healthy population (often 120,000 to 180,000 seeds per acre), you offset that risk with extra plants that can fill in if a few plants are killed or severely injured. Additional risks when planting early include a higher chance for soil crusting and disease issues since the seed sits in the ground longer, as well as poor cold germination scores leading to inferior stands. Using a great seed treatment can help offset the risk of disease and poor germination, but looking at the cold germination score is critical. If your seed company won’t tell you what the cold germ score is on your soybeans, test them yourself to find out. While the standard warm germ score on soybeans is 90%, the standard for cold germ is 80%, meaning even if your beans meet or exceed that level, a good percentage will still die prior to emergence.


Early planting isn’t for everyone, but if you wait until after crop insurance kicks in, plant a bean with a high cold germination score, and use a great soybean seed treatment, you will likely be rewarded with a few extra bushels at harvest.