With the recent volatile swings in commodity prices, soybean farmers need to maximize yields now more than ever. David Wright, research and education director of the North Central Soybean Research Program, offers suggestions to soybean growers on choosing varieties for the 2009 growing season, to maximize yield and profit potential.
When it comes to selecting soybean varieties for 2009, soybean growers will benefit from taking some time and doing it right. "That means doing a little homework, and brushing up on your history before sitting down with your seedsman," says Wright.
"The homework involves studying 2008 university yield trials," Wright adds. "Review the public tests of varieties across companies. Use these independent research evaluations to identify the highest yielders that have performed well over a range of conditions."
The Varietal Information Program for Soybeans  (VIPS) online database has data from the University of Illinois variety trials, as well as links to other states' data. From VIPS, growers are one click away from university yield trial results from Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.
According to Wright, "Once you've selected several top-yielding varieties in your area, then determine the disease traits, resistance or tolerance you need. Check your yield maps, talk to your crop advisor and gather your notes on the history of environmental conditions and diseases in your fields.
Play strong defense
Generally speaking, growers in Indiana, Iowa and Illinois commonly face soybean cyst nematode and sudden death syndrome. Farmers in the non-Soybean Belt areas of Wisconsin and Michigan often struggle with brown stem rot and white mold. North Dakotans and northwestern Minnesotans wrestle with iron chlorosis. In Ohio and Indiana, Phytophthora is a major problem.
In contrast, if you always get a good stand and never have Pythium or Phytophthora issues, "Then leave off the fungicide seed treatment and put your highest yielding variety in that field," Wright suggests.
It's all about yield:
The goal is to minimize risk, since every season brings different challenges depending on temperatures, rainfall, pests and diseases. Managing input costs presents challenges, too.
"In fact, we've been hearing about farmers returning to conventional soybean varieties in 2009 to lower input costs and take advantage of overseas demand for non-GMO beans," Wright says. Some grain elevators have been offering significant premiums for clear- and grey-hilum beans.
"No matter which direction you go in 2009, at the end of the day, it's all about yield," he adds. "And there's still room to improve. A survey of Indiana growers showed that 28% plant one soybean variety, and another 25% plant two varieties."
That's a lot of Hoosier farmers who are limiting the genetic pool of what they're capable of obtaining, yield-wise. "These growers may be putting themselves at risk," Wright says. "So spend a little time and choose soybean varieties that yield – and that meet the agronomic needs of each field."
Read more about soybean variety selection recommendations in an NCSRP research update publication, Managing Soybeans from the Ground Up. Call 800-383-1423 to order a free copy, or read it online at www.planthealth.info/order.htm .