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Extension > Agriculture > Crops > Soybean Production > Planting > Soybean variety selection: Looking beyond bushels

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Soybean variety selection: Looking beyond bushels

By Lizabeth Stahl, Regional Extension Educator - Crops, University of Minnesota Extension

November 8, 2004

Many producers make their seed buying decisions in the fall to take advantage of early order discounts as well as to lock in orders of varieties that may be in limited supply. When selecting a soybean variety to plant in the spring, a number of characteristics should be considered including maturity, yield, disease and pest resistance, iron chlorosis scores, height, lodging, and quality characteristics. While all of these traits are important, a few of these are worth noting.

When determining a disease and pest resistance package for a field, looking at what has happened in the past will be the best guide in determining future needs. Although environmental conditions need to be right for disease symptoms to be observed, most diseases won't just "go away" by the next time you rotate to soybeans. If white mold has ever been a problem in a field, for example, consider selecting varieties less susceptible to the disease. Sclerotia, the survival structure of white mold, can remain viable in the soil for about seven years in the absence of a host plant like soybeans. White mold was more common this year than in the recent past, in part due to the cool and wet conditions experienced during soybean flowering. Proper variety selection is the foundation of a white mold management plan, as it is with most soybean disease management plans.

Variety selection plays a major role in management of another prevalent pest problem, Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN). University of Minnesota research demonstrates that growing SCN resistant varieties is the most effective way to lower SCN populations and to increase yields compared to growing non-resistant varieties in SCN infested fields. If you are in a rotation to help manage SCN, be sure to plant a different variety than has been planted before in the field. While it is ideal to rotate the source of SCN resistance, this is commonly not possible since the vast majority of varieties available today are from the PI 88788 source. Rotating SCN resistant varieties as well as planting a susceptible variety when indicated by your management plan will help prevent the development of resistance to SCN varieties in your fields.

Additional traits all soybean growers in Minnesota should examine are protein and oil content. Although soybean growers produce soybeans, processors pay for oil and protein. Prices received by soybean producers in Minnesota are lower than received in most other soybean producing states, in part due to differences in protein and oil content. Minnesota and South Dakota Soy Processors, AGP, Cargill, and CHS Inc. are among processors that currently offer premiums to producers based on protein and oil content.

In a survey conducted by Iowa State University on soybean production from 1986 to 2002, Minnesota soybeans averaged less than 35% protein and 18.5% oil while areas with the highest values for these traits averaged over 36% protein and 18.75% oil. Environmental conditions play a major role in differences, but genetics are also a factor. The goal is to select high-yielding varieties that are at least 35% protein and 19% oil.

This website includes protein and oil information on all varieties tested in University of Minnesota State Variety Trials and is the earliest source of soybean variety trial information.

In summary, when selecting a soybean variety you should first select a pool of high yielding varieties that meet your agronomic needs and then look at the protein and oil content of these varieties. Consult independent yield trials, such as University variety trials, to aid in variety selection. Research conducted by Dale Hicks and Seth Naeve, Extension Specialists with the University of Minnesota Extension, demonstrates that selecting varieties based on replicated yield trials averaged over a few locations resulted in higher yields the following year than using results from just one location. Using at least three sites to select a high yielding variety with the appropriate defensive package and quality traits should help lead to optimal yields and profits.

Last modified on August 19, 2013

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