6 ideas for selecting soybean varieties
Mastering variety selection can help you boost soybean yields. Below are six soybean variety selection tips that Seth Naeve, University of Minnesota Extension soybean specialist, gave at this year's Illinois Crop Protection Technology Conference.
- Be aware of co-branding
Agronomists typically recommend planting several different varieties across a farm to reduce agronomic and economic risk. Unfortunately, this strategy is confused through co-branding of soybean seed, says Naeve. This occurs when companies sell the same variety under different brand names.
"Instead of diversifying genetics across their farm, farmers will plant two to three varieties with the same genetic background," says Naeve.
The consequences are serious. If environmental conditions favor development of a disease that's susceptible in the variety, it can hamper yields across the entire farm.
Although seed law and seed labeling requirements may vary by state, you may discover a variety's origin by checking its seed label. The number listed under variety is the original variety. The number listed under brand is the company name.
If two lots of seed have different brand numbers, but share the same variety numbers, they are the same variety. There are some cases where the original variety won't be listed under the wording variety not stated.
- Consider later maturities
Many farmers in areas like Minnesota, northern Illinois, and Wisconsin may fear early September frost can clip immature long-season soybeans varieties. In most years, though, longer-maturing varieties are a way to boost yields by harvesting late-season sunshine.
"In warm falls like 2002 and 2005, we can add extra bushels from long-season varieties," says Naeve. "Upside yield potential with full-season varieties may be greater than the associated downside risks."
- Nix 'red-herring' traits
Don't worry about what Naeve terms "red-herring" traits. These are traits that do little to impact yields, such as "bushy" versus "thin-line" beans.
"If we spent as much time picking SDS (Sudden Death Syndrome) and SCN-resistant (soybean cyst nematode) varieties, we would make yield gains," says Naeve.
- Evaluate public tests
Evaluating the results of public varietal trials is a good way to obtain unbiased yield and trait information. Naeve says the Varietal Information Program for Soybeans (VIPS) in Illinois, where Corn Belt farmers can obtain unbiased variety information, is an excellent resource.
- Weigh discount trade-offs
Warily eye early purchase and volume discounts.
"Although these can benefit producers, they can sometimes bottleneck producers into a single brand and a narrow amount of genetics going into varieties," says Naeve.
- Consider quality traits
Niche markets with premiums exist for varieties featuring quality traits, such as high-protein soybeans desired by China.