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Ace variety selection

Agriculture.com Staff 09/12/2008 @ 10:42am

Rather than a problem spot in a field, Russ Meade, Tiffin, Iowa, has a puzzling problem.

Ten years ago, he harvested an average of 55- to 60-bushel-per-acre soybeans, but he's watched his average yield slide to the 50- to 55-bushel-per-acre range in the last five years.

"I'd like to get more money out of each acre of beans," he says.

Meade studied accounting in college and went on to become a certified public accountant. When he was drawn back to the farm a decade ago, he knew his lack of agronomic knowledge would be a challenge. That's why he enrolled a 40-acre soybean field in the High Yield Team (HYT) program that Successful Farming magazine started in 2005 to help increase soybean yields. Meade has partnered with Palle Pedersen, an Iowa State University Extension agronomist and a HYT expert panel member, to obtain yield-boosting ideas on the field.

Variety selection keys maximum yield and profit, Pedersen says.

"It's like building a house. If the foundation is cracked, the whole building can fall down," Pedersen explains. "There is nothing you can spray on a field to fix it if you choose a low-yielding variety without the defensive traits that you need."

Meade has relied on his local dealer to recommend Group 2.5 to 3.0 varieties that do well in his area. That's a good start, but Pedersen says growers shouldn't rely on a single year's data from a one-location trial or strip row test. Instead, select varieties that have done well over multiple locations and years.

Pedersen suggests picking five or six varieties that perform well locally before narrowing that list for other characteristics. Meade's soil tests revealed low soybean cyst nematode (SCN) levels. Since SCN-resistant varieties have no yield drag and SCNs often have a synergistic effect on other diseases, Pedersen recommends Meade plant an SCN-resistant variety. Once that list narrows to two or three varieties, choosing the variety based on local dealer availability is fine, he says.

Meade shared his dealer's picks with Pedersen and learned his dealer is making good ones. However, Pedersen suggests using another variety that has consistently done well in his research trials. Pedersen showed Meade several tables with yield data on his laptop, but Meade is frustrated the information isn't more easily available to growers.

Rather than a problem spot in a field, Russ Meade, Tiffin, Iowa, has a puzzling problem.

Meade and his younger brother, also an accountant, no-till. He jokes they finish taxes on April 15, rest a day, and start planting corn April 17. They usually finish around May 1 then plant soybeans several days later. Pedersen wants them to plant soybeans by April 25 in 15-inch rows, a spacing Meade already uses.

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