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Think outside the box to pick varieties

Even if you’ve already selected varieties for 2012, you still can double-check yourself. Are the right varieties paired up in the right field?

Think outside the box to pick varieties

Even if you’ve already selected varieties for 2012, you still can double-check yourself. Are the right varieties paired up in the right field?

“You’re after two things — yield potential and yield consistency,” says Shaun Casteel, Purdue University Extension soybean specialist. “You need to look at them together.”

Key Points

Look for both yield potential and yield consistency when picking varieties.

Multistate data from independent tests can be useful in narrowing choices.

Make sure variety is well-suited for particular challenges in each field.

Go outside the box — don’t just settle for data supplied by your seedsman. You’ve probably seen the commercial where a used car buyer says, “Show me the Carfax.” The used car dealer squirms. A reputable salesman won’t squirm. Simply ask to see data from independent studies.

Multistate data

The Purdue University hybrid and variety testing program, headed up by Phil DeVillez, added a feature — multistate comparisons. Obtaining data from four neighboring state testing programs, the Purdue website allows you to see how the same variety performs under various conditions. Visit

“You want to see how varieties performed in multiple growing environments, and this is a good way to do it,” Casteel explains. Varieties in the multistate data are listed as percent of the highest yielding variety in the individual trial, rather than for actual yield.

“Bushels per acre don’t mean anything when comparing a plot in central Illinois vs. a plot in northeastern Indiana,” he explains. The key is how the variety compared to the top yielder in that environment, not what it actually produced, Casteel emphasizes.

“If you can find one that’s in the top 90% across all environments, that’s what you’re looking for,” Casteel says.

Match to field

The other secret is to inventory the challenges on your farm field by field, he notes. Do you have problems with soybean cyst nematode? Are there wet soils that set soybeans up for phytophthora root rot? Select varieties that stand up to these challenges in independent tests.

Traditional thought says you ought to pick the fullest-season variety for your area. The theory is that if it’s fuller season, it will make maximum use of the growing season and yield more.

“There are some 3.2 varieties doing very well where the full-season variety is a 3.8,” Casteel notes. “Spread your risk and timing by planting some of both.”

Test your knowledge

Here’s a brain teaser. Suppose you’ve got 3.2 and 3.8 varieties in your toolshed. If you can start planting May 1, which should you plant first?

Don’t worry — there’s no right or wrong answer. Shaun Casteel says there are two schools of thought regarding this question.

“One option would be to plant the 3.8 variety, the fuller-season variety, first,” he explains. “Your reasoning would be that you want to make maximum use of the season.

“The other option is to plant the earlier variety first. That logic says that you want the early variety to get as much vegetative growth as possible before it begins flowering.”

Take a look at the fields where you’re planting these varieties, and make your own decision, Casteel concludes.

This article published in the January, 2012 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.

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