There are few secrets to producing efficient soybean yields. It's just a matter of taking care of the little things in a timely manner and finding a system that works on your farm. Good weather does help, but even that can't be depended on for consistent yields.

For the most-efficient soybean yield winners in North Carolina, it's a matter of doing what they have time for, says Jim Dunphy, North Carolina State University soybean specialist. “You have to make compromises to try to get the best mix for the whole farm.

Among the refinements they've made to their production: Getting more fields planted on time; spraying as soon as possible; scouting; getting the pH right; and making sure phosphorous and potash levels are where they should be.

“Many of the things that influence yields and profits are things that impact yields on a percentage basis,” Dunphy says, “1 percent or 2 percent, as opposed to a quarter a bushel or a half a bushel. Those things have a multiplication effect, like compound interest as opposed to simple interest.

“The guys that are doing better than others are doubling up,” Dunphy says. “It's not so much the inputs that are being used; it's how well the inputs are being used. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but that's the honest truth.”

In a year with good weather, these practices stick out. For example, a total cost of production of $210 per acre on a 30-bushel yield means it takes $7 per bushel to grow the crop. If, however, the yield goes up to 60 bushels per acre, then cost of production can be lowered to $3.50 per bushel — even at the same $210 cost of production per acre.

While weather does help, efficiency holds true to the adage that good farmers get the best deal when the weather cooperates, Dunphy says.

In the top entries of the North Carolina Soybean Most Efficient Yield Contest, there are few markers that point to why the producers did well.

For example, the two producers who tied for the most-efficient yield farm in different parts of North Carolina. Everett Larabee of Pasquotank County grew soybeans for $2.77 per bushel on a yield of 85.4 bushels per acre. He used 60 pounds of seed per acre on 7.5-inch rows.

Burke West of Cherokee County grew soybeans for the same $2.77 per bushel with a yield of 69.6 bushels per acre, using 26 pounds of seed per acre planted on 30-inch rows. Only about a quarter's worth of difference separated the top 10 entries in the 2001 contest.

The cost per bushel of the 86 entries in the contest ranged from a low of $2.77 to a high of $6.31.

“In the top 43 field entries, there are 30 different varieties,” Dunphy says. “It just re-enforces how well these producers have put together a system that works well.”

With an excellent growing season in 2001, the early varieties performed extremely well. “We could have predicted that,” Dunphy says. “It didn't rain in September and the early stuff had already made a crop by September. The more of a September rain the beans needed, the lower their yields. I don't think that's saying that the real-early soybeans are the most profitable in the state, it was just more of a reflection on the growing season.”