Soybean variety selection is the first important decision you make, and seed companies take this very seriously.

I don’t know about you, but I have a house full of sports fans, so when we start talking about a soybean line-up I often think of it as a “soybean sports team.” Every team manager (or company) is going to have a different strategy as well as different needs, but in the end the goal of a seed company is to strengthen their soybean line-up with improvements that meet customer standards and yield expectations.

Thanks to weed resistance, the reality when evaluating genetics means decisions are based on both herbicide technologies and yield. What some may not realize is emergence, disease resistance and lodging must also be considered during the selection process. These factors, depending on the year or the environment, could potentially impact soybean yield in a big way.


Once we’ve chosen a few high-yielding soybean recruits that lead the pack within our research program, we track them throughout the year and evaluate data from previous years in multiple locations. We compare the yield data, herbicide traits, agronomic traits and phenotypic traits within the same maturity designation.

Yield, herbicide technologies and agronomics are key, but customers also care about the phenotypic look of the players, so notes need to be taken on plant height, canopy width and pubescence. Once we have collected all this data, our goal is to make sure that our soybean product line-up includes products that are specific to the needs within each sales territory, so this is when we take a long, hard look at placement. We need to have the right players for the right environmental conditions as well as customer needs.


Timeline for evaluating important agronomic characteristics when making variety selection decisions.

Except for yield, maturity is one of the most important factors when selecting a variety. It seems simple, but we need to find early varieties that have the correct herbicide technology traits and agronomic characteristics for northern and southern sales area. For example, we don’t need to worry about white mold for Southern Illinois and Frogeye leafspot is not a concern for Northern Illinois. And glyphosate-tolerant only soybean sales are a thing of the past for Southern Illinois, but there is still some demand for these varieties in the north.

Lastly, we don’t forget to glance over characteristics such as seed quality, germination, emergence, vigor, shattering and the effect of seed treatment on each soybean variety chosen for our team.

A soybean variety could be perfect in every way, but have a low SDS score. A prescription of ILeVO® seed treatment could make all the difference and help that exceptional variety excel in the field. A few growers are concerned about how soybean growth habit is affected by row spacing and this is also something we evaluate. But, this is something that should not be high on your priority list during soybean selection as plant population can alter growth habit and the popularity of soil herbicide residuals has helped achieve weed control before canopy.

Just like a sports team, we want healthy players playing the correct positions together to score big and win. At the end of the day we are committed to giving our customers the best line-up possible, so we gather information to recruit the best soybean varieties for their farms. Other seed companies follow a similar process to guarantee success on your farm.

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About the Author: Stephanie Porter

As Outreach Agronomist for the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA), Stephanie supports research efforts and helps communicate both in-field and edge-of-field research and validation studies to Illinois 43,000 soybean farmers. She also helps lead the demonstration and adoption of conservation agriculture practices and raises awareness of best management and continuous improvement practices for conservation agriculture in Illinois. Stephanie has 23 years of experience that consists of agronomy, conservation, horticulture, plant diagnostics, and education. She has her bachelor’s in crop science and master’s in plant pathology from the University of Illinois. Stephanie is a Certified Crop Advisor and was named the 2018 Illinois Certified Crop Adviser Master Soybean Advisor. She also has experience with corn and soybean pathology research, crop scouting, soil testing, as well as crop consulting. Previously, she utilized her diagnostic training and collaborated with University of Illinois departmental Extension Specialists to diagnose plant health problems and prepare written responses describing the diagnosis and management recommendations as the University of Illinois Plant Clinic.