This article was originally published in Illinois Field & Bean magazine.
When it comes to smart seed buying decisions, everyone wants the highest-yielding option. But finding a hybrid or variety that matches your operation and supports your broader farm management plan is just as critical to long-term success.
Illinois Field & Bean Magazine sat down with ISA Soy Envoys, Ben Wiegmann and Kathryn Kamman, to talk to them about seed decisions that pay-off and what farmers should consider in today’s competitive marketplace. Here’s what they had to say…
Meet Ben Wiegmann
ISA Soy Envoy and Beck’s Field Sales Agronomist
Farming is a system that is comprised of many different management factors, for example, seed varieties, fertilizers, pesticides, tillage practices; the list goes on and on. Within this system, each factor can affect all the other factors. With that said, determining your yield limiting factor can be a farmer’s biggest step forward to produce high yielding crops.
Every year farmers are faced with the decision to select which varieties they will plant on their farm. Each variety can be unique and may possess different characteristics that cause that variety to respond differently to management factors. Knowing how each variety responds to different management factors is extremely important for the farmer to know so they can not only maximize yield, but also maximize return on investment. When selecting soybean variety, consider these six characteristics:
Weed management is arguably the largest challenge in soybean grain production. With different weeds being or becoming herbicide resistant to many different herbicides, farmers must be mindful of the weeds in their field. Today, there are multiple herbicide tolerant soybean trait platforms ranging from XtendFlex and Enlist to Non-GMO and organic. This is the first decision farmers must make when determining soybean varieties for their farm.
Weed-free fields are extremely important, but yield is what farmers are paid for. Selecting high-yielding soybean varieties is of utmost importance after farmers determine how the troublesome weeds will be controlled.
Plant health is something that farmers strive for every year. Farmers must be mindful of common diseases they face in their fields and be able to select varieties that can combat those diseases. For example, soybean varieties are often characterized by whether or not they handle “wet feet,” which refers to their ability to grow in saturated soil conditions. A host of diseases, such as phytophthora, can develop when soil conditions are wet. Soybean varieties will have varying levels of natural tolerances to phytophthora. Moreover, some soybean varieties possess phytophthora genes that can help prevent infection by this disease. Being aware of diseases farmers may combat is important in any seed selection process.
Every growing season is different which brings different sets of challenges typically caused by the weather. Selecting varieties that have excellent emergence is important as the soybean plant encounters adverse weather conditions. Tillage, no-till, and cover crops can largely affect emergence. Being mindful of which soybean varieties work best in each system is important to get the growing season started in the right way.
Harvesting soybeans that are flat on the ground is definitely a way to slow down productivity. Many different factors can affect the standability of a soybean crop, for example, wind, fertilizer rates, water, soil type, and much more. However, specific varieties may stand better in some scenarios versus other scenarios. Be cognizant of how specific varieties will stand in the environment they are placed.
Maximizing the growing season while mitigating risk is the name of the game in farming. Selecting a maturity range that allows a farmer to maximize the entire growing season is important. Additionally, planting multiple maturities can be beneficial for managing risk. For example, a disease infection or weather event may occur at a particular time throughout the growing season. A 3.5 maturity group soybean variety may be affected more by that event than a 3.9 maturity group soybean variety.
Considering multiple management factors when making any seed decision is extremely important. Knowing your management factors, and how different seed varieties respond to the factors, can lead to maximizing yield and R.O.I. Work with your seed supplier and be sure you fully understand how your soybean varieties will respond to your unique management factors.
Meet Kathryn Kamman
ISA Soy Envoy and WinField United Market Development Specialist
It may seem like there are countless number of seed companies all touting full line-ups of corn and soybean products to choose from in the marketplace. This is potentially daunting when developing a seed plan for the coming year. However, the competition between the seed brands and a wide selection for the grower to choose from is actually a valuable asset, especially when working closely with a trusted agronomic advisor to help focus in on key products. When I work with retail sellers and farmers, making variety selections can be broken down by answering three broad questions: what trait package, what soil type will the soybeans be on, and what is the management style? From there, what may seem like a limitless number of varieties breaks down into what works for a specific farmer. With an emphasis on soybean variety selection, lets dive into each of these questions and see how they help to choose the right product for each acre.
What soybean trait package are you planning on using?
This plays hand in hand with a growers weed management plan. There are three key choices in the market today, XtendFlex, Enlist, and conventional soybeans. XtendFlex soybeans are tolerant to herbicides glyphosate, glufosinate, and dicamba while the Enlist traited soybeans are resistant to glyphosate, glufosinate, and 2,4-D. Conventional soybeans are normally planted for premium on the market whether they are treated conventionally or organically. After years of breeding both the Enlist and XtendFlex traited soybeans, yield, agronomics, and disease tolerance are at parity between the two platforms, leaving both to be a superior option. Selection of these two traits really comes down to the weed management plan that is preferred.
Where will these beans be placed or what soil types will they be planted into?
Really honing-in on that question to know what the fertility levels are, what the yield potential is of those soils, and what the drainage is on those acres will drive what varieties need to be utilized across the different acres. For example, a farm that is a silt loam with high organic matter content, moderately well drained, and is in a corn/soybean rotation will be a great fit for a soybean variety that is high-yielding and is more offensively focused. Or maybe the placement and soil type discussion is around a field that is heavy in clay content and sits wetter throughout the year needing a variety that is more defensive, has good disease tolerance scores and has a larger plant stature so it will not shrink on those stressed acres.
What is the season long management plan?
This question will help to understand the fine details that are expected out of the variety. For a farmer who plants in 30 inch row spacings, a bushier statured plant or variety that has more branching would be ideal to help close the wide rows quickly. When looking at disease levels, if a grower does not intend to spray fungicides, a variety that may be less tolerant to frogeye leaf spot is not the best option compared to a variety that is more tolerant. Conversely if a grower does usually spray fungicides, varieties that have lower disease tolerance ratings are a great option to fit with their management plan. Knowing how a grower intends to manage their soybean crop will help to get the most out of the varieties chosen.
Discussing these three questions with a trusted agronomic advisor will help to determine the best soybean variety for each acre out there and make the task a little less daunting when the options seem limitless. Variety selection is one of the most important decisions each year because the season long plan starts with the seed.
Remember, the best season-ending yield comes from the best season-starting seed!