Stanfield handling soybeans with care
WHITE HALL, Md. (Sept. 19, 2017) — To hear Ed Stanfield detail his intensive management of soybeans, one might think he’s growing tomatoes, watermelons or some other high value crop.
After planting the relatively small 225 acres of soybeans at Edrich Farm, Stanfield said he’ll make at least three trips through the field but depending on scouting results through the season, he’s made as many as ten trips over the crop to boost plant health and yield.
Applications start when plants are six inches tall and in some fields go deep into the season, as the plants brush up against the bottom of the sprayer.
He said it’s often the plants will be at his chest, he’s had some areas where they reached his chin.
“I treat soybeans as a vegetable,” he told farmers during a recent field day for The Mill, held at Clear Meadow Farm in Harford County. “I’ve made zero hay because I’ve spent my whole summer spraying beans.”
In the last six year’s Stanfield, who farms in Randallstown, Md., said he’s changed a lot about growing soybeans to consistently pass the 100-bushel per acre mark.
Growing on relatively poor soils — “It’s hard to find the dirt in between the rocks in some places,” he said — Stanfield said moving to foliar feeding for fertilizing, along with a diligent scouting program is at the core of his growing successes, spoon-feeding the crop with different blends and products throughout the season to maximize uptake and efficiency.
“On your soil and your farm everybody will be different. Every field will be different. I’m just trying to make the best of what I have available,” he said. The soil is “a limiting factor but the foliars have helped me eliminate that.”
Applications include plant food products specified for different growth stages, biologicals, carbon, micronutrients, fungicide and even sugar late in the season.
“I don’t want it to run out of gas,” he said, referring to using sugar.
No doubt the cost of those applications stack up.
Stanfield said it adds between $250 to $400 to his per acre cost, but with the yields he’s getting, it’s worthwhile, even in a time of lowered commodity prices.
“It’s a whole different way of thinking. You have to commit yourself to doing it,” he told farmers at the field day. “You can’t control price. Go worry about growing more bushels, something you can have an impact on.”
Stanfield has been growing soybeans continuously for ten years on some of his fields and not used granular fertilizer in five years.
“I can’t make money on corn, that’s why I’m in the direction I’m in,” he said.
After six years, Stanfield said his soybean program is sustainable.
He said he’s starting to see some potassium deficiency in the soil but able to amend it during the growing season.
“I’m not depleting the soil other than nitrogen. I’m sucking all that out,” he said.
Other departures from the norm on soybean growing include planting depth at two inches and his seeding rate is 180,000 seeds per acre, much higher than most farmers and most seed dealers recommend.
“It’s totally against everything I’ve been taught,” he told farmers at the field day.
But Stanfield said it’s paid off for him.
“I didn’t hit 90 bushels until l went to 180,” he said.
Stanfield walks and scouts his bean fields at least once a week, but some fields got a daily visit and some even more than that.
Growing just 225 acres of soybeans, Stanfield said he has to get high yields to stay viable.
“I’m only worried about bushels. That’s the only way I’ll survive. I don’t have a lot of acres.”
Easton, MD 21601-8925