Soybean School: What to plant first in 2024

OMAFRA soybean specialist Horst Bohner and University of Guelph graduate student Seth Ritsma

Soybeans or corn? Which seed makes the most sense to plant first next spring?

Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs soybean specialist Horst Bohner says good arguments can be made for planting either crop first. The best solution might be to buy a second planter and start rolling with both crops at the same time, he quips.

But Bohner agrees that a closer look at the economics is probably the best place to start with considering the question. Will early-planted soybeans be more profitable than early-planted corn? We get an answer to that question on this episode of RealAgriculture Soybean School when Bohner and University of Guelph graduate student Seth Ritsma join host Bernard Tobin to discuss trials that compares yield for early-planted corn and soybeans.

Ritsma will be presenting his full research results in April, including 2023 data, but his preliminary findings do support the belief that the highest economic return can be realized when growers choose to plant corn early.

In 2022, Ritsma planted corn and soybeans at three locations across Ontario — Ridgetown, Elora and Winchester. Each crop was planted at three target dates: April 30 (early), May 20 (normal) and June 15 (late). At harvest, Ritsma then compared how much yield declined for each crop as planting moved from the early to normal and late planting dates.

Looking at the 2022 summary for both crops, corn planted in the early window at Ridgetown out-yielded corn planted at the normal date by 25 bu/ac. Corn planted early at Winchester delivered a whopping 59 bu/ac more that the normal window. Early corn was also a big winner at Elora with a 16 bu/ac advantage over the normal planting window.

Ritsma 2022 data also recorded higher yields for early-planted soybeans over those planted in the normal window — Ridgetown 3 bu/ac, Winchester 1 bu/ac and Elora 3 bu/ac.

The numbers really tell a story, notes Bohner. He says the evidence does support the benefits of planting soybeans early “but the corn number is compelling.”

In the video below, Ritsma also shares trial results on how maturity selection for corn and soybeans can impact yield. He and Bohner also discuss the yield risk corn growers face when tough, early-season growing conditions lead to uneven plant emergence; and how soybeans typically show more resilience and can better tolerate poor spring conditions.

Click here for more Soybean School videos.

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