Legume crops such as soybeans and field peas can fix their own nitrogen from the atmosphere via a relationship with certain soil bacteria. Farmers including an inoculum of the bacteria with the seed at planting promote this natural relationship. However, the amount of nitrogen the bacteria provide can depend on many factors including residual nitrogen in the soil, weather, and soil conditions.
There is debate on whether bacteria can provide enough nitrogen to soybeans for maximum yield potential or not. A lot of energy is required to generate nodules (root structures for bacteria to provide nitrogen) on soybeans and when nitrogen is available from application or residual in the soil, crop growth may be greater pushing yield potential. In addition there is debate on the optimum application timing of nitrogen on soybeans. At planting could increase early growth and later in season may help push yield.
With discussion around applying potassium and micronutrients later in the growing season it makes sense to be considering nitrogen requirements too. I think that farmers should try a couple of areas in their fields and see if differences were made. Throw down some nitrogen at planting, put some down in season in another strip and as always leave an untreated check to compare the treatments. It comes down to market prices though. In the past prices have been good and pushing yield potentials with nitrogen could pencil out but with low prices or poor growing conditions they probably won’t.