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Soybean selection for 2021

Soybeans often take the back seat to corn. However, plunging corn prices coupled with higher input prices can make the miracle crop (after all, how many crops make their own nitrogen?) a more appealing option. Here are factors to consider as you plot your 2021 soybean seed strategy. 

Select Full-Season Varieties 

Yield potential, of course, dwarfs all other factors. After picking the appropriate variety for your field, though, remember to plant a full-season variety that fits your area. Provided timely planting occurs, full-season variety yields nearly always outyield short-season varieties, says Lance Tarochione, an Asgrow/DeKalb technical agronomist.

Exceptions exist. “Getting an August or September rain just at the right time can make differences more erratic,” he says. 

Still, a Group 2 soybean will not outyield a Group 3 bean when planted at the same time, he adds. 

Think Disease Tolerance 

Fungicides are a good tool when it comes to curbing fungal diseases, but disease-tolerant varieties are the place to start to deter disease. 

“If a field has had a history of sudden death syndrome (SDS), with SDS occurring three out of every five (soybean) years, pick a variety with a higher tolerance to SDS and add a seed treatment that protects against SDS,” Tarochione says.  

Varietal tolerance is also a place to start with white mold. This fungal disease hits particularly hard in the Upper Midwestern states of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin in 2019. 

“Once a field has white mold, it lingers for a long time. You can assume you will have it for the next 10 years,” says Randy Myers, fungicide product manager for Bayer Crop Science. Again, tolerant varieties are helpful. Some varieties tolerate this fungal disease better than others, but there is no true resistance, says Myers. White mold can persist in soil for years, nixing crop rotation as a control measure. 

Fungicides can give good control, but timing is crucial. Because senescing flower petals are the medium for infection, treat when the first flowers develop and before canopy closure, Myers says.

Choose Traits Carefully 

These days, soybean farmers face several herbicide-tolerant trait options. “The focus has been on creating new molecular stacks with several modes of action within a single event,” says Travis Kriegshauser, Syngenta strategic marketing manager for soybeans. 

There’s a hitch, though. Traits are expensive to develop and must clear numerous regulatory hurdles. This extra expense is passed to growers who may be looking to cut costs by planting conventional varieties. Normally, though, the opportunity for a premium guides growers who are looking to grow conventional varieties, he says. 

“Conventional soybeans generally require a more expensive weed management program,” he says. “Herbicide-tolerant traits help stabilize yield performance by reducing yield loss from weed competition.”

Meanwhile, conventional soybeans also require segregation to ensure purity, he adds. “Farmers also may realize lower yield potential if older varieties have not kept up with soybean genetic gains,” says Kriegshauser.

What’s Coming Up 

At press time, the future of dicamba-tolerant soybean technology was in question due to a June 3 federal court ruling that temporarily suspended the use of XtendiMax, Engenia, and FeXapan use on dicamba-tolerant soybeans. (The Environmental Protection Agency ruled farmers could still apply existing stocks of these herbicides bought and on hand by June 3 until July 31, 2020. 

Even before this development, though, Tarochione says much interest existed in the XtendFlex system. These soybeans tolerate dicamba, glyphosate, and glufosinate. Although it’s awaiting European Union approval, XtendFlex is slated for use in the 2021 season. This would enable farmers to apply glufosinate, a chemical to which no weed yet resists in row crops. (Glufosinate-resistant Italian ryegrass has been documented in Oregon and California in orchards and vineyards.)

Bayer officials say the XtendFlex system increases the control spectrum from 350 to 375 weeds over Xtend soybeans that tolerate just dicamba and glyphosate. They add that the system’s dicamba formulation offers 14 days of residual activity for weeds that have not yet emerged.

“Prices have not been finalized for XtendFlex coming to market, but we will look at a premium price for that type of innovation,” says Liam Condon, Bayer Crop Science president. “We have had outstanding success with XtendFlex in cotton.”

In the works later this decade from Bayer is a stack that includes tolerance to:

  • Glyphosate
  • Dicamba
  • Glufosinate
  • An HPPD-inhibitor herbicide
  • 2,4-D

By 2030, Bayer aims to have a six-way stack including resistance to:

  • Glyphosate
  • Dicamba
  • Glufosinate
  • An HPPD-inhibitor herbicide
  • 2,4-D
  • A PPO-inhibitor herbicide

Other Developments

Farmers in selected areas in 2021 will be able to apply Alite 27 – the first Group 27 (HPPD inhibitor) herbicide that matches GT 27 and LibertyLink GT27 soybean varieties. The Environmental Protection Agency approved Alite 27 in late March. Initially, GT27 and LibertyLink GT27 seed was developed by MS Technologies, Bayer, and Mertec LLC. BASF replaced Bayer as the chemical company partner as part of divestments Bayer made when it bought Monsanto in 2018. 

GT27 soybeans tolerate glyphosate and Alite 27. The LibertyLink GT27 stack tolerates glyphosate, Alite 27, and Liberty (glufosinate) in BASF Credenz varieties. 

Alite 27 herbicide is approved for select counties across Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, and Tennessee. No other Group 27 herbicide can be used on GT27 and LibertyLink GT27 soybean varieties. 

The Enlist Weed Control System enters its second year of full use in 2021. It confers herbicide tolerance to a new 2,4-D formulation – 2,4-D choline – and glyphosate in corn, soybeans, and cotton and “fop” herbicides in corn. Herbicide options include Enlist Duo, a mix of glyphosate, and 2,4-D choline. Enlist One is straight 2,4-D choline that can be tank-mixed with approved label herbicides. 

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