When making next year’s soybean variety decisions, know your fields, recognize potential disease issues, do your variety homework and optimize your agronomy to get the best yields possible.
Soybean variety selection is the first decision you make when planning soybean production for next season and that decision is usually made the summer and fall before. But this is a very hard decision to make. I have been an agronomist for a long time, and a farmer for a shorter period of time, and have never been able to totally figure out how to make the perfect decision. I recognize that selection is somewhat of a gamble and we have to rely on our seedsmen to give us the best advice possible because they know their genetics.
However, two things are true: the newest genetics don’t always outyield the older genetics (variety plot results don’t automatically transfer to the same results on your farm) and almost all brands are substantially equal—meaning each will come out on top part of the time and fall to the bottom 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 how stable or consistent yield performance is. But equally important is a variety’s defensive package and soil placement.
Soybean yield is very variable and it all comes down to the number of seed-bearing pods per plant and per acre. Since soybeans produce many more flowers and pods than they fill out, every soybean variety has the possibility of seeing a record yield. The key to getting them to keep those pods means having the right defensive package and management practices to minimize stress and optimize growing opportunity. Today I tend to focus less on the variety and more on the management practices—this is where the opportunity to increase yields exists.
So what are the key steps to variety selection?
- Focus on proven yield.
- Don’t be brand loyal.
- Evaluate the defensive packages and how they compare to disease pressure you experienced this season.
- Look at field and soil placement. You have only one chance to get variety selection right so make sure the variety matches your soil and landscape conditions. Match up traits on a field-by-field basis.
- 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.
While agronomy is probably the key to high yields, don’t shortchange variety selection and placement.
Agronomist Daniel Davidson, Ph.D., posts blogs on agronomy-related topics. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring him at 402-649-5919.