Making the Soybean Seed Decision

Dan Davidson, Agronomist PhD, CPAg, CCA

When making that seed order, many things dictate which soybean varieties to plant, including your soils, weed control challenges, and management style.

You’ve probably been making variety decisions for some time now and feel comfortable doing so, relying on the expertise of your seed salesmen or advisors – or perhaps the reliability of the brand you plant. It is probably redundant to say you know your fields, recognize potential disease and pest issues, already do your variety homework, and optimize your agronomy to get the best yield possible.

Your process may follow the steps listed below:

  • Decide on a weed control trait and match up traits on a field-by-field basis.
  • Focus on consistent high yield.
  • Evaluate defensive packages and if they will provide the control you need.
  • Look at field and soil placement. You have only one change to get variety selection right so make sure the variety matches soil and landscape conditions.
  • Plant a range of maturities. Unexpected short heat waves or dry periods for one- or two-weeks during July or August will impact maturities differently.

Soybean variety selection is the first decision you make when planning for next season and that decision is made either during the previous summer or fall. It’s important to recognize that selection is somewhat of a gamble! We must trust the yield data and rely on our seedsmen to give us the best advice because they know their genetics and how they perform on a given soil type and landscape. However, two things are true:

  1. The newest genetics don’t always out-yield the older genetics.
  2. Results from variety plots don’t automatically transfer the same results on your farm.

Today it seems that almost all brands are substantially equal – meaning each seems to come out on top part of the time. Nevertheless, it is important to at look at yield performance, since companies have data from multiple sites and years that show consistency. But equally important is a variety’s defensive package and its proper soil placement. That is why it’s important to recognize the different abiotic and biotic stresses that can impact the plant.

Today, many growers want to pursue high yields and adopt the best management practices to achieve it. One of the things that Dr. Fred Below’s Six Secrets (University of Illinois) taught us is that varieties do matter, and they don’t all respond equally to intensive management practices. If you want to hit 90 bushels or break 100, a variety’s potential response to intensive management matters. Unfortunately, seed companies aren’t yet screening varieties using a combination of best practices commonly available today.

Soybean yield can be very elusive. We plan and manage for high yield, only to fall short in some years. Any grower that sets up to break 100 bushels and does all the right things may still end up with 80 bushels. While agronomy is probably the key to pursuing high yields today, don’t shortchange variety selection and placement. And if you’re one of those growers who has adopted intensive best management practices in pursuit of high yield, ask your dealer which of their varieties will be most responsive.

Fortalis® is an essential crop input

Your soybean yields can also benefit from Fortalis®, an advanced crop enhancement foliar spray that works by mobilizing calcium already existing within plant tissues, resulting in higher pod retention. When applied as a tank mix, Fortalis® with a fungicide or insecticide contributes to better plant health and higher yield potential. It’s an essential crop input that you need to get the most out of your crop.

Dan Davidson is a PhD agronomist, part-time farmer and soybean expert from Nebraska who consults with soybean checkoff and industry on crop production, marketing, and product development projects.

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