Top Soybean Summit takeaways to support your essential role

By Doug Schroeder, Chairman, Illinois Soybean Association Board of Directors

Doug Schroeder

A lot has changed in the world since I saw many of you at the 2020 Soybean Summit on March 10.

While this is a stressful time for many, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that production agriculture has been deemed an essential industry in the face of COVID-19. What we do as farmers is important. You are important to this industry and to your family. So be smart and safe this spring.

With planting season right around the corner, there’s still a lot of work for us to do. The Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program continues to provide support to your essential work. For example, presentations from Soybean Summit are now posted on for us to use as a resource. If you couldn’t make it to Soybean Summit, I’ve highlighted some of the key takeaways from the full day of excellent agronomic and business presentations:

1. Consider lingering issues from the 2019 late-planted crop

With the start of the 2020 planting drawing near, it’s important to reflect on the 2019 growing season. Last year we saw floods across the state at planting time. Late harvest led to late fall burndowns or none at all. This year we can expect increased insect pressure due to a mild winter. Take these factors, among others, into consideration when planning for the 2020 season.  

2. Get smart on plant nutrition  

Plant nutrition varies greatly depending on the location and history of the field. Midwest soils have significant phosphorus and potassium reserves, but nutrients often move in and out of availability. That’s why good nutrition practices go beyond blanket applications. When you allocate resources where they’re needed, you’ll get a much better return on investment.

3. Focus on the part of the plant you sell – the bean

There’s a simple equation for increasing soybean yield. When you increase the pod-to-node ratio and avoid pod drop, you significantly increase yields and, ultimately, your profit. Allocate resources where you get returns and maximize harvest. Focusing on pods will help you identify necessary resources.

4. Set aside 10 to 20 acres to try new practices

Innovation paves the way for growth. Setting land aside to test new practices is the best way to grow your operation. Maybe you want to try a new seed treatment, but you’re not sure how it will perform. Testing on a smaller plot of land is a low risk way to try new applications, equipment and practices.

5. There’s no time like the present to plan for farm succession

You need a plan to grow and transition your farm successfully to new generations. To get the ball rolling, involve a third party to help navigate emotional conversations. You can also utilize a business entity, like an LLC, to guide the future of the farm, support family goals or adapt to the next generation’s needs.

6. Build a team of trusted advisors

You’re not supposed to be an expert at everything. That’s why you need a team to help direct the various areas of your business. Teams may include certified crop advisors, attorneys, friends who build your influence, mentors, bankers and even fellow soybean producers. Strategically place individuals on your team who you can lean on.

7. Run the family farm like a business

Your farm is a business and needs to be run like one. But, running a family business comes with emotion. That’s why it’s important to put a grain marketing plan in place. By removing the emotional aspect of grain marketing, you can focus on improving the profit and health of your business.

8. Be aware of grain storage risks

Storing soybeans has many advantages and when done correctly, adds profitability to your crop. The most common issue with storage is moisture, so maintain soybean quality by keeping the crop at 13 percent moisture. Monitoring systems can help avoid storage risks like moisture levels or bin fires, providing a large payoff.

9. Practice sustainability on your farm

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in our marketplace. The USDA set goals to increase U.S. agricultural production by 40 percent and cut nutrient loss by 30 percent by 2050. You can take steps toward sustainability by implementing innovative practices, like foliar nutrition in fungicide packages, or technology like digital yield data.

10. Understand your ROI down to the zone level

Your field data can tell you a lot more than emergence rates or projected yield estimates. It can help you gain a better picture of your return on investment. It’s important to evaluate everything from return on specific areas of fields to fields you might consider leaving unplanted. By targeting areas of improvement, you can better allocate resources for a more productive operation.

To gain more insights from the 2020 Soybean Summit, visit