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:
Aphid resistance. Aphid-resistant soybean varieties debuted on about 8,000 acres this past year.
Legend Seeds, Dahlco Seeds (acquired by AgReliant Genetics), Blue River Hybrids (organic supplier), Renze and Dairyland Seed (both affiliates of Dow AgroSciences) carried varieties integrated with native Rag1 resistance. This year, Syngenta enters the marketplace with an integrated aphid management program through its NK Brand soybeans. "We've been able to integrate the native Rag1 trait for aphid resistance into elite Midwestern NK soybeans,” says Matt Tenhaeff, Syngenta brand marketing manager.
The Syngenta Aphid Management System will be available in introductory quantities in 2010. The available varieties will be in the early to mid-Group II's. Plans are to increase seed supply in 2011 and expand maturity ranges from late Group 0 through Group III.
The Syngenta management system will come with CruiserMaxx seed treatment. Scouting and rescue treatments of Warrior II with Zeon Technology at economic threshold complete the integrated approach.
Herbicide trait options. Weed resistance to glyphosate has farmers searching for options. Bayer CropScience had a limited commercial launch of LibertyLink soybeans this past season. For 2010, farmers will find expanded maturity ranges of 0.5 to 5.9 available from more than 120 seed companies to supply 2 million to 3 million acres, says Andy Hurst, Bayer CropScience product manager. Soybeans with the trait will be tolerant to Bayer's Ignite herbicide (glufosinate), which controls 120 broadleaf weeds and grasses.
LibertyLink soybeans will also offer farmers enhanced agronomic performance packages, including resistance to SCN, phytophthora and iron deficiency chlorosis.
Pioneer Hi-Bred's Optimum GAT soybean program was in controlled plots in 2009, and that will continue in 2010. Company spokesmen say foreign approvals have come slower than anticipated, so availability of the new trait will be limited, but it's still scheduled for introduction in 2011.
Special effects. Conventional soybeans are now considered a specialty crop, with 95% of the U.S. crop planted to herbicide-resistant varieties. However, rising seed costs and lucrative premiums are creating new interest in nongenetically modified (non-GMO) varieties, says Jim Beuerlein, Ohio State University Extension agronomist.
The identity-preserved market is definitely gaining traction, agrees Thompson of Stine Seed. "We're doubling the number of non-GMO varieties we're offering next year and widening out the maturity range, too.”
Demand for low-linolenic (3%) and ultra low-linolenic (1%) oil continues to grow. Don Schafer, Pioneer senior marketing manager, says farmers from Nebraska through east-central Ohio will find additional opportunities with new low-linolenic varieties. "Watch
for our research trials of new high-oleic soybean varieties this coming season,” Schafer says. "We are on track for a controlled release upon USDA approval in 2010.”
Yield enhancement. Pioneer is adding 26 soybean varieties to its lineup for 2010. These new high-yielding Y Series varieties consist of 20 products with SCN resistance, five low-linolenic products and one non-GMO product. "One of the things we've worked hard at is putting together a product lineup that has a baseline of tolerance to problems like soybean cyst nematode, phytophthora and white mold,” Schafer explains. "A product may be a real yield winner in testing, but if it shows a fatal disease flaw in our research testing, it is dropped from our program before it ever makes it to the market.”
Asgrow's contest to reward farmers who found five-bean pods this past fall is part of a 2010 full-scale launch of Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield (RR2Y) soybeans. Jennifer Ralston, Monsanto's director of oilseeds product management, says the company expects to see RR2Y products planted on 8 million to 10 million acres in 2010, up from plantings this past season that were limited to 1.5 million acres of Group II and Group III beans. For 2010, RR2Y soybeans will range north into Groups 0 and I and south into Group IV and higher. Several low-linolenic varieties will also be included in the RR2Y lineup.
Over the top. Planting Genuity RR2Y products means you'll also get the company's Acceleron seed treatment products. In 2009, RR2Y varieties featured a fungicidal package only. In 2010, the treatment package will also include an exclusive plant health agent and imidacloprid insect protection.
Seed treatments are definitely a hot item on the "what's new” list for 2010—and every seed company has a slightly different twist. Syngenta's new advanced-genetics NK-1 class of soybeans comes with CruiserMaxx seed treatment.
Pioneer's Premium Seed Treatment program lets the producer custom design a seed treatment to match specific insect and disease pressures. Gaucho insecticide and Trilex and Allegiance fungicides can be ordered through the conditioning plant or from their sales agent as a "just-in-time” application (along with inoculants and other treatment amendments) closer to planting.
You can e-mail Pam Smith at email@example.com.