Last week’s column focused on selecting soybean varieties for SCN resistance – a critically important trait. This week, let’s focus on yield.
The most important factor to consider when selecting soybean varieties is yield potential. It’s critical that you find a way to identify the lines with the greatest chance of producing a maximum yield. The best means to determine yield potential is by looking at several independent reports of yield for each available variety. Unfortunately, there is not 2015 yield data available. So, choosing varieties from the combine cab is a crap shoot.
One strategy is to select newest and best varieties recommended by your seed dealer. While most of us do prefer the newest and best of everything, this choice comes with some risk. Soybean yields have been increasing at a rate of about 1% per year. So, on average, you can expect new varieties to yield 1% greater than those released last year. However, the 1% potential yield gains can easily be swamped by actual performance.
As an example, elite varieties entered into the southern zone of the 2014 University of Minnesota Variety trails yielded between 47 and 69 bushels per acre on average. This is nearly 20% on either side of the mean yield. Newer MAY be better, but you may be simply selecting a NEW dog.
Proven performance in 2015 will give you some level of assurance that your variety choices will produce in 2016. Yield stability that has been demonstrated in 2014 and 2015 tests will provide even more support for good yielding soybean lines.
Utilize as many sources of information as possible. Consult with your seed dealer, but also check yields within the University of Minnesota Variety Trials publication, FIRST tests, local strip trials, as well as yields from your own farm. Although sifting through multiple tests can be extremely challenging, the payoffs are great.
Also remember that local information on variety performance can be helpful in choosing locally adapted varieties, but the BEST prediction of variety performance is the average performance in multiple testing locations. The greatest predictor of future performance is not how a variety performed on a particular piece of ground in one year; it is how it performed across many environments. The simple explanation for this is that season-long weather is more important for separating varietal performance than are local factors such as soil type, and local pest complexes.
So, continue testing varieties on your own farm, but do not rely entirely on your own experiences. Multiple independent sources of data will ensure that you’ve selected the best varieties possible for 2016.
Seth L. Naeve is a University of Minnesota Extension Soybean Agronomist and Associate Professor of Agronomy and Plant Genetics. Reach Seth at 612-625-4298 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.