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Wisconsin farmer plants soybeans in December

A Wisconsin farmer is taking advantage of the unusual December weather to try something different…  planting soybeans.

Ryan Nell farms near Beaver Dam, in southeastern Wisconsin says, “I kind of talked about it last week, talked to a few guys. Conditions were good enough to go, so we planted three acres today.”

Nell would normally have snow on the ground by December 10th. “We’ve been on the drier side. We pretty much got everything wrapped up this fall. We’ve had success with March-planted soybeans the last three years, and just thought this might be the next step to see what we can do with soybeans, in harsh conditions I should say.”

In what he calls Plant 20.5, Nell planted his experimental four acres Thursday, expecting snow as early as the weekend. His goal was to plant and let the beans decide when they will emerge based on the soil temperature.  Nell says this helps eliminate Mother Nature’s interference with wet conditions during the traditional spring planting time. “We’re learning that the beans, beans will sit tight until they want to get out of the ground. Beans are tough. Corn, not so much.”

And, he says planting early or on time, his beans emerge around the same time. “What we’ve seen with the March-planted ones, our beans don’t come out of the ground until May 3rd, May 4th, May 5th. Three years in a row, they’ve come out of the ground between May 3rd, May 4th, May 5th .” 

But the yields are usually better on the early-planted beans. “Where there is an advantage as we saw in 2019, we got 13 acres planted March 30th and April 1st. Then I didn’t plant again until like May 13th. There was probably a fifteen bushel advantage right there.”

Nell planted the soybeans on December 10th at three different depths after strip-tilling using 140-thousand and 200-thousand plants per acre populations in silt loam soil with drain tile, and he used no other inputs.

Nell tells Brownfield after posting a short planting video on Twitter and Facebook, his phone and social media kept him busy answering questions the rest of the day.  If Nell has a January or February thaw with no snow and the right ground conditions, he says he will probably plant a few more soybeans for this test, and Nell has some additional soybean experiments planned for spring planting time focusing on row spacing to combat white mold issues.

The Nell family raises corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, rye, triticale, and they have a 250 cow dairy but the herd is going to be sold soon.  They use 100% fall strip-tillage which Nell says has changed the game for his soybeans.

Ryan Nell discusses his December planted soybeans and other field experiments with Brownfield’s Larry Lee 12/11/20

Note: Nell received that blanket of snow he was wishing for over the weekend, as the storm dumped up to six inches in parts of southern Wisconsin.

  • I see a lot of soybeans germinate in fall and die. I do not see any germinating in the spring time. If the beans starts germinating after planting in fall planting, the winter freeze will kill the plant. If they stay dormant over winter and germinate in spring, a freeze will also kill the plants.

  • I think that’s crazy. The risk far out do their reward of this experiment. $12 a bushel for a beans how can one be crazy enough to plant beans at the beginning of winter. There will not be a one Bean grow

    • Seriously? Its 4 acres. I highly doubt a 4 acre failure is going to break a guy, but a 4 acre success this year could put money in his pocket for years to come.

  • There is a big difference between fall and late fall. 10 days before winter means it will be highly unlikely soybeans will germinate before spring. Probably not so in late September October and November. Hats off for innovating new ideas to combat climate change and the wet weather that appears to be here for the long-haul.

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