Jeff Sloan spent rainy days in Illinois this past fall weighing his options. A late harvest forced Sloan and his family farming partners to start choosing soybean varieties for the coming year before final yield results were tallied.
"Wow, what a season,” Sloan says. "If ever there was one to get a good look at disease resistance and tolerance to other stresses, this was it. We're really excited about what some of the new varieties are bringing to the field—in yield and disease tolerance. It's about time. We need to close the productivity gap that's traditionally existed between corn and soybeans.”
While seed companies have already begun taking orders for next year's variety selections, there's still time to reserve your top picks. "Been there, done that” isn't a slogan that fits the 2010 growing season. The challenge is weighing all the new traits, technology and treatments coming to market.
David Thompson, national marketing and sales director for Stine Seed, says farmers should be excited about the options before them. "Last year there were several controlled launches of new technology platforms that will be rolled out to the entire soybean community this year,” he notes.
"The biggest thing we see is growers getting stuck on an old favorite. At Stine, we evaluate 1 million lines a year and genetics are evolving so quickly that many of our varieties are in the lineup only two years before being replaced by something better.”
University of Illinois Extension soybean specialist Vince Davis says this turnover makes it important that farmers study variety trials. In addition to getting the details from your seed supplier, use yield and lodging information generated by university testing programs, Davis says. Soybean cyst nematode (SCN) resistance data and disease ratings are provided by the Varietal Information Program for Soybeans—better known as VIPS. The information is Illinois-heavy, but it links to similar state programs. The Sloans also depend on reports from Farmer's Independent Research of Seed Technologies (F.I.R.S.T.), an association of farmers organized to find newly developed trait-added corn and soybean products that work on the farm.
Davis notes that the maximum yield potential of each variety is genetically predetermined—so the genetic background is vital to your selection. However, that yield is reached only when the environmental conditions are perfect. This past season was a good
reminder that ideal conditions rarely exist; therefore, yield stability, disease and pest resistance, maturity, grain composition, height and lodging are also important considerations.
"The mistake some growers make is picking a variety based on last year's problem,” Davis adds. "Making a selection based on knowledge that you have a history of SCN in a field is different than basing a decision on the fact that you had a weather-related problem like white mold last year,” he adds.
The Sloans raise mostly seed beans, so they often get a look at what's new early in the game. Ron Sloan, Jeff's father, remembers when soybeans were merely a "fill-in crop” to be used between wheat and corn. "These new varieties that yield 60 bu. to 70 bu. put money in the bank,” he says. "Soybeans have become a real important crop for us.”
Here's a snapshot of some of the new and improved options for 2010 soybean planting:
- December 2009