Should soybeans be rolled?

April 14, 2021

Rolling soybeans is an agricultural practice that offers many benefits when performed at the right time and correctly, including increasing the maximum potential yield. In this article, our team provides information about rolling soybeans and shares some of the benefits associated with this technique, which is increasingly appealing to soybean growers. 

What is rolling soybeans?

Rolling soybeans is a technique that prepares and levels the field for harvest using a roller that pushes stones into the soil, breaking up root balls or dirt and smooths the seed bed. This is normally done before or after planting, but we will describe in this blog why it is done when the plant has emerged.

Roll soybeans to increase yield

A recent study has highlighted the benefits of rolling soybeans after (VE) emergence using a 30 inch diameter smooth roller on soybeans planted in 15 inch rows with a seeder.1

In this study, rolling was done at five different stages. It was done in the afternoon, in the midday heat, when soybeans are less turgid (softer stem) and recover more quickly from rolling.

As a result: rolling soybeans after emergence provided a small yield gain compared to rolling immediately after planting. In fact, post emergent rolling acts as a stress factor on the plant as it forces the plant to potentially grow other branches and create more pods. An increase in the number of pods does not automatically mean a higher yield, but rather an increase in maximum potential yield, since other conditions such as an adequate moisture rate, optimal nutrient intake and proper weed control are also essential.

Rolling in the first trifoliate (V1 stage) offered the best yield gains compared to other stages. Interestingly, the same result was observed in both tilled and no-tilled fields.

Roll soybeans to encourage node and branching formation

At the same time, rolling soybeans also encourages node and branching formation. In fact, stressing the terminal growing point at the top of the plant encourages more soybean nodes and branching. 

A conclusive study by the University of Minnesota2 found a gain of two pods with about 2.5 grains per pod, which is theoretically equivalent to four more bushels per acre. An Ontario study conducted by OMAFRA found the best increase in yield at the V1 stage, i.e., 1.8 bu/acre.1

Since the cost of rolling is less than the value of a bushel of soybeans per acre, the use of this technique seems beneficial and justifiable for soybean growers. 

Some farmers who roll soybeans immediately after planting also see benefits other than yield gain, such as a faster emergence, 2-3 days in their crops as this technique improves the contact between the soybean seed and soil. In areas where the growing season is shorter, this can make a significant difference, especially if spring is late.

Roll soybeans to optimize combine harvester work

Rolling soybeans also offers another benefit for growers. This technique allows them to lower their grain platform closer to the ground, while reducing the risk of picking up stones, root balls or dirt.

Ultimately, rolling soybeans helps prevent stones, roots and dirt from reaching or damaging their machinery. 

Rolling soybeans: a delicate, but beneficial operation

Soybeans can be safely rolled up to the V3 stage, i.e., the third trifoliate. After the V3 stage injury to plants can offset any benefit. 

Soybean growers interested in this technique must make sure that they intervene at the optimal time when they can stress the plant without having any negative side effects. By optimal times, we mean within three days after planting and then from the unifoliate stage up to the V3 stage. It is also important to confine rolling to flat or rocky fields with low erosion risk and roll only when field conditions are favourable.

That concludes our short piece on rolling soybeans. To learn more about this subject, we invite you to contact us. You can also visit the Blog section of our website to learn more about the soybean world.

Happy rolling!