Tag Archives: Variety Selection

Planting Tips for Profitable Double-Crop Soybean

   Before I get into tips for soybean, I must emphasize one must focus on the entire double-crop wheat-soybean system.  Both crops must contribute to profit; one crop cannot carry the other.  You will may save some input costs such as lime, fertilizer, and rent (making those seasonal cost spread over two crops) with the double-crop system, but certain costs such as soybean seeding rate will increase.  In the end, these inputs roughly equal out with the exception of land rent that can vary greatly over Virginia.

   With that said, the most important thing to insure a profitable double-crop system is yield, yield of both crops.  Without a minimum of 80+ bushel/acre wheat and 33-35+ bushel soybean, the system will not likely be as profitable as the full-season soybean system, especially with today’s low prices. 

Assuming that you will intensely manage both crops during the growing season (note that intensely managing does necessarily not equate to greater input costs, but instead greater attention), the most important thing that anyone can do right now for greater yields is to harvest the wheat crop as soon as possible, and then immediately plant the soybean.  Our 3-year, 5-state (PA, MD, DE, VA, NC) project conducted just a few years ago clearly confirmed that this is one of, if not the most important decision that a double-crop farmer can make.  In that project, we generally showed a rapid decrease in both wheat and soybean yield with delayed harvest and planting after mid-June.  Wheat yield declined anywhere from 0.5% to 2.5% per day, depending on location and year, versus wheat that was harvested at 18-20% moisture.  This was largely due to rapidly declining test weights afterwards.  And we also noted that quality decreased in many test locations. Note that if wheat is harvested this wet, then it will need to be dried almost immediately.  I don’t recommend this unless you have a continuous-flow drier or have a buyer willing to take the high-moisture wheat without severe price dockage. 

Although we found a benefit to the wheat crop, probably the bigger benefit however to harvesting wheat at high moisture is earlier planting of the soybean.  On average the soybean yield began to decrease about ½ bushel/acre per day by mid-June, but this increased to 1-2 bushels per day once we got into late-June (more northerly Mid-Atlantic states) and early-July (more southerly Mid-Atlantic states).   This resulted in a major income difference. 

Just to re-emphasize this most important point, harvesting the wheat and planting the soybean ASAP is the most important thing a farmer can do to make this system as or more profitable than a full-season soybean system.  The current weather is not helping with this (we could have harvested much of our wheat this week), but hopefully next week will bring drier weather.

Here are some other tips that are very important when planting double-crop soybean.

Variety Selection. Select the latest maturing varieties that will mature before the frost.  This will assist with growing as much leaf area and having as many reproductive nodes as possible.  Plant the earlier maturing varieties in this maturity range on your best soils and the later relative maturities on the poorer-yielding land.

Always Plant in Narrow Rows.  I prefer 15 to 20 inch rows seeded with a planter that singulates the seed.  Seed singulation insures uniform seed placement within the row and no big gaps between plants.  The other option is to plant with a drill, which achieves the narrow rows but results in what many refer to today as a “controlled spill”.  This results in many gaps, 2 or 3 seed planted in the same place, and generally lower yields (we proved this in some on-farm double-crop studies in the early 2000s).  Still, a drill is better than 30-inch (or wider) rows at such a late planting date.

Seeding Rate. Beginning next week in Virginia, plant 140,000 to 160,000 seed/acre and increase that rate by 20,000 seed/acre with each successive week.  This will of course put the seeding rate up to 200,000 to 220,00 plants by the first full week of July, sharply decreasing your profit with greater seed costs and lower yields.  Again, this is to insure maximum leaf area and node development.  Note that as one moves north and west, greater seeding rates may be needed due to the shorter growing season (e.g., northwest Virginia may require a greater seeding rate than southeast Virginia, or North Carolina). If using a drill, I suggest increasing these rates by 10%.

Insure Good Soil-to-Seed Contact. First, adequately spread the wheat residue.  No planter will uniformly plant through inches of matted residue. Then make sure the planter is properly set to 1) cut the residue, 2) penetrate the soil to the proper seeding depth, and 3) ensure good soil-to-seed contact.  These steps must take place in order. And they affect each other; a mistake in accomplishing one of the steps can result in mistakes in the other two.  I suggest waiting until late morning to begin planting to insure that the small grain residue to dry – unless the residue is dry, cutting through it will be a problem, resulting in hair-pinning of the residue and prohibiting proper soil-to-seed contact. 

Plant into soil moisture.  If there is plenty of moisture, you can plant as shallow as ¾ inch and get good and rapid emergence.  If a little dry on top, you can plant as deep as 1.5 inches.  With warm soil temperatures, soybean will generally emerge well from this depth and may even emerge from even deeper depths (but I don’t recommend).  Unless you farm in wet, poorly drained soils or are growing continuous soybean, I don’t usually recommend a fungicide seed treatment during June and July due to warm soils.  Double-crop soybean usually emerge quickly if planted into soil moisture and will “out-grow” any seedling disease.

Insure Nitrogen Fixation. If soybean have not been grown in a field for the past 3 years, then be sure to apply inoculate to the seed with the proper bacteria.  This will insure adequate nitrogen fixation by the soybean plant. There is no need to apply nitrogen; definitely don’t apply more than 25-30 pounds/acre or you will inhibit this vital biological process. As a side note, we did find a fairly consistent 1 bushel yield increase with starter N at 25 lbs/acre due to slightly better early-season growth; but this did not pay for the cost of the N – so I don’t recommend.

Fertility (P, K, S, etc.).  Keep in mind that the straw contains quite a bit of nutrients.  If the straw is harvested, make sure that you are replacing those nutrients that are leaving the field.  For more information, see our VCE publication,  The Nutrient Value of Straw.  And make sure that you are being paid more for the straw than these nutrients and organic matter is worth!

Enlist Soybean Varieties for Double-Crop Production Systems

Although it appears that we can use existing stock of labeled dicamba products (XtendiMax with Vaporgrip Technology, FeXapan, and Engenia) for Xtend soybean varieties, some may want to switch to or use Enlist varieties to control resistant or hard-to-kill weeds in their double-crop system.

Therefore, I’m listing this past year’s results of the performance of Enlist varieties from our variety tests. Note that most of maturity group (MG) 4 varieties. I tested no late-5 or 6 varieties.

Again, the varieties that you have already selected are likely the best-performing ones for your fields; therefore, I do not recommend changing unless you need the Enlist system to control weeds in certain fields.

Note that relative yield is the yield relative to all varieties tested within a relative maturity group (e.g., early-4, late-4, early-5, etc.). Relative yield of 105 means that the variety yielded 5% greater than the average of the entire test.

Should Court Ruling on Dicamba Affect My Seed Choice for Double-Crop Soybean?

The court ruling yesterday has given a devastating blow to farmers that are depending on the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend herbicide program for their soybean. There seems to be much discussion regarding clarification of this ruling, including when the ruling can take effect and a possible “existing stocks” provision.

Until the ambiguity around the decision is clarified, it’s worth thinking about seed choice. Assuming there is little that can be done about soybean already planted and growing other than alter your postemergence tank-mixes, you may have an opportunity to switch varieties for the upcoming double-crop soybean planting.

First and most important, do not change your variety selection if you have weeds that can be controlled without the addition of labeled dicamba products (Enginia, FeXapan, Xtendimax) to your herbicide program. The varieties that your have already selected are most likely to be best for your farm and will maximize your yield.

However, if you must add dicamba to your glyphosate to kill glyphosate-resistant marestail (hopefully you’ll take care of this weed before you plant), Palmer amaranth, or common ragweed, then you have some options with Liberty-Link, Enlist, Liberty-Link GT27, or a few other varieties that have stacked the GT and LL traits.

Like all herbicide-resistant traits, there are good varieties and there are some that don’t yield so well. I suggest that you refer to our Virginia Soybean Performance Tests 2019 or other good private and public resources to see how these have performed.

Improving Your Soybean Variety Selection Decisions – What maturity is best?

Variety selection continues to be one of the most important decisions that we can make.  It is also one of the first steps to take that insure success.  It’s a hard choice because there are so many varieties available.  Still, this choice is one that will affect your profitability throughout the year.

Soybean yields in our variety tests have increased by an average of 0.4 bushels per year over the last 30 years.  Some of this increase is due to better varieties, some is due to better management.  In those tests, the highest and lowest yielding varieties varied by 20% or more (8-10 bushels).  It is therefore clear that making the wrong choice will seriously impact next year’s soybean crop.  Unfortunately, environment (rainfall, temperature, soil type, field, etc.) affects yield variation more than variety – there is always lots of year-to-year and site-to-site variation.  Still, each variety has specific strengths and weaknesses that make it more or less suited for any given situation.

Putting the Right Variety in the Right Field

With all this variation, it is very important that you place the right variety in the right field.  This will be influenced by 1) planting full-season or double-crop; 2) maturity; 3)herbicide tolerance; 4) disease and/or nematode tolerance; and finally 5) yield potential.  There are also a number of other factors that differentiate varieties such  as shattering and lodging susceptibility, height, branching ability (thin vs. bushy), seed size, seeds/pod, protein and oil content, other specific traits, etc.), but these will rarely affect your bottom line.   Although all of the top five things I listed are important, yield potential is clearly what is of most interest.  However, if you do not pay attention to numbers 1 through 4 first, your yield potential can be low.

To cover all of the things that make variety selection important would take more words than this blog will allow, so we will first focus on the choosing the right maturity.

Relative Maturity Choice: Spreading Out Environmental Risk

First, I should say something about early planting of an early-maturing variety.  I define this as planting in April or early May a variety that is about one full maturity group earlier than the maturity that is most adapted, based on historical data, for your area.  First, early-planted early-maturing varieties will always have a greater risk of poor quality seed.  The seed of these varieties are maturing during September and early October, when the weather is relatively warmer.  Warm and wet weather are perfect conditions for seed decay.  2018 has been one of the worse years for this, primarily due to excessive rainfall and much warmer September temperatures.  To the right is an example of a maturity group (MG) 3 soybean planted in April in Madison County (MG 4 is the most adapted maturity for this area).  Clearly, you don’t want to end up with this.  While early maturing varieties have their advantages, their associated risks should keep the percentage of acres planted to a minimum.

On the other hand, do not keeping all varieties in a tight maturity range.  The performance of varieties within a certain maturity range will almost always depend the environment that they experience during pod and seed fill.  If conditions are good (adequate rainfall, moderate temperatures, good soils) during that time, yields will be high.  Unfortunately, the weather cannot be predicted in our humid southeastern U.S. environment.  While late-July and early-August are generally our hottest and driest times of the year, we have just as good of a chance of going through a hot and dry period in June as well as July as well as August, and sometimes in September.          Still, on average, certain relative maturity ranges yield more than others in the south central part of Virginia.  Below are the average yield balance (no. of bushels/acre greater or less than average) of a range of soybean maturities tested in our full-season variety tests over the last 10 years, separated by location.

I’ll use our Southern Piedmont location (Blackstone) as an example of a location that shows the greatest yield gap between the earliest and latest varieties (nearly 15 bushels!).  This is likely due that area typically experiencing the more stress (hot and dry) from late July through August than other regions.

Similar but on the opposite end of the spectrum, MG 3 and 4 varieties work best at the Northern Piedmont (Orange) location.  Maturity group 5 varieties generally not as adapted in that northerly environment.

The northern and southern Coastal Plain sites (Warsaw and Suffolk) behave similarly to Blackstone – MG 5 outperform MG 4 varieties; but the yield gap between relative maturities is not as wide.

Our Eastern Shore location does not follow the same trend of MG 5’s being the highest average yielding varieties as one moves south and east.

Note that maturity group (MG) 5 varieties relatively better in the more eastern and southern locations of Virginia’s mainland, while MG 4 varieties tend to do better in our most northwestern location (Orange) and on the Eastern Shore (Painter).  While MG 3’s don’t yield as well, the group 4’s are the highest yielding.  Why?  I attribute it to two things: yield potential and temperature.  In general, this site has over time been one of our highest yielding sites.  Although rainfall patterns are similar to other locations in Virginia, it is our coolest location (and there is usually a breeze) – both likely a water effect.  Therefore, the site experiences less stress.  So, pushing the critical pod- and seed-filling stages slightly earlier in the year are not as problematic.

So, should you stick only with maturities that perform best on average?  Not necessarily.  Using Blackstone as an example, note that although the late-group 4 varieties yield less than MG 5’s on average, they yield much better than earlier 4’s.  And late-4’s yield just as well as 5’s in Orange and Suffolk.  I stress that these are averages – 10-year averages of all varieties within those relative maturity ranges.  Is it possible for the MG 4 varieties to yield more than the 5’s in Blackstone or Warsaw?  Is it possible for MG 5’s to yield more in Painter?  Yes!  It just does not happen as often.

We took that same data and calculated the probabilities, not absolute yields, of obtaining similar or greater yields of all relative maturity groupings tested.  The results are below.

Once again, to use the Blackstone data as an example, we can see that growing a late-MG 5 variety will yield at least as much as all of the other relative maturities 90% of the time (bar height).  In addition, there is a 50 to 60% chance (height of the hatched portion of the bar) that the 5’s will yield significantly more than the 4’s.  So, it seems that you will never go wrong with those varieties, correct?  You’ll probably (~80% chance) not go wrong by growing a large percentage of those varieties, but should you should you only plant MG 5’s?  I suggest that you do not grow only MG 5 varieties.  There is still a 10 to 20% chance that the 5’s will yield less than the other maturities.  Plus, there is a 60% chance that late MG 4 varieties will yield just as much as MG 5 varieties (and a 30% chance that they will yield more).

Painter is another good example.  Although there is a yield gap between the 4’s and 5’s, there is a 50 to 70% chance that MG 5 will yield as well as MG 4 varieties.  And there is a 30% chance that they will yield more!  You can use the same thought process for the other locations.

Below are the same graphs for double-crop tests.The Right Mix of Maturity Groups in Virginia.  So, what is the right mix of maturity groups?  I suggest the following:

Southern Piedmont

  • Plant 60 to 80% of your land to MG 5 varieties. We have also found that later maturities generally do better on our more droughty soils, so take that into consideration if possible.
  • Plant 20 to 30 % to late-MG 4 varieties (4.7-4.9). If possible, plant these on your higher-yielding soils.  We have found that this range of maturities have our greatest yield potential throughout Virginia if the weather cooperates.
  • Plant 0 to 20 % to mid-MG 4 varieties. These are risky, especially on droughty soils or in double-crop settings.  It is highly likely that these varieties will experience some (or a lot) of stress during the seed and pod fill stages.  Plus, seed quality will almost always be poorer than other maturities.  If you do grow these, harvest as soon as possible as seed quality will continue to degrade with time.  Don’t plant these in April or early May. This places the most critical times of development (pod and seed fill) during late-July and August.  And seed quality will be even worse since they will likely mature during the warmer part of the year.  Still, yield potential can occasionally be quite high.

Southern Coastal Plain (same comments apply regarding droughty soils and seed quality)

  • Plant 30 to 60% of your land to MG 5 varieties.
  • Plant 30 to 50 % to late-MG 4 varieties (4.7-4.9).
  • Plant 10 to 20 % to early- and mid-MG 4 varieties.

Northern Coastal Plain (same comments apply regarding droughty soils and seed quality)

  • Plant 30 to 60% of your land to MG 5 varieties. In double-crop systems, reduce that percentage to 30 to 50%.
  • Plant 30 to 50 % to MG 4 varieties (4.7-4.9). In double-crop systems, increase that to 50 to 70% late-4’s and plant 10-20% early-or mid-4’s.
  • Plant 0 to 20 % to late-MG 3 varieties.

Eastern Shore (same comments apply regarding droughty soils and seed quality)

  • Plant 20 to 40% of your land to MG 5 varieties.
  • Plant 50 to 70 % to late-MG 4 varieties (4.7-4.9).
  • Plant 10 to 20 % to early- and mid-MG 4 varieties. Plant 0-10% in double-crop.
  • Plant 10 to 20% to late-MG 3 varieties.

Northern Piedmont (same comments apply regarding droughty soils and seed quality)

  • Plant 0 to 20% of your land to MG 5 varieties. Don’t plant MG 5’s double-crop.
  • Plant 60 to 80 % to MG 4 varieties (4.7-4.9).
  • Plant 10 to 20 % to mid- or late-MG 3 varieties.

The proportion of MG 4 and 5 will ultimately depend on your risk tolerance.  Note that as you move west and north, the risk of an early frost is greater; therefore, growing lots of late-maturing varieties may not be a great idea, especially double-crop, and the probability of slightly earlier maturities doing better is greater.

Hopefully, this will give you some guidance in choosing your maturities within the next few weeks.

IMPORTANT:  Keep in mind that the yields and yield balances shown are an average of all varieties in those relative maturity groupings.  This does not mean that every variety in those grouping perform in this manner on every field.  Make sure that you first the variety that meets your match your field’s pest management needs; then, select a high-yielding variety within that relative maturity range.

 

Good Soybean Yields in Virginia for 2017

It was a challenging harvest season, but we harvested our last plot today.  Yields were very good, ranging from the upper 40’s to upper 70’s.  Across all maturity groups in our variety tests, full-season yields averaged 63.3 bushels/acre and double-crop averaged 60.0 bushels/acre.

Virginia soybean are now predicted to average 45 bushels/acre, a new state record.  We are just shy of the predicted national average.  Over the last 20 years, we have been increasing yields at a rate of 0.6 bushels/acre per year.  This is quite a feat!  While better genetics are part of this increase, I think that most of the increase is coming from better overall management of the crop.  This management includes long term (e.g., better soil quality, etc.) and short term (e.g., timely planting, etc.). 

Of course, we cannot forget the weather.  It was relatively cool during the critical pod and seed development stages.  More importantly, rain came at the right time.

2017 Virginia Soybean Variety Results

Below are some preliminary results to our soybean variety tests.  I caution you that these are preliminary – some changes could still be made.  But, I feel pretty good about the data presented here.  Some double-crop data from Orange and Painter is still outstanding due to variability.  We will be trying to determine its cause and have those data available ASAP.

Workhorses, Racehorses, and Quarter horses

Today is the first day in 2 weeks that we’ve been able to harvest due to weather and a combine breakdown.  So, we are not that much farther along in getting variety test data to you than we were last week.  However, I hope to get out some preliminary data by Thanksgiving.

Last week, I indicated that certain relative maturities do better in some parts of Virginia than others.  This week, I I’ll get a little more specific and discuss choosing the best variety for a given yield potential.

First and foremost, I will continue to emphasize that variety selection should be based on multi-year multi-site data.  Basing your selection on a single test (maybe closest to you) and single year is a recipe for failure.  However, I don’t necessarily recommend always choosing a variety based on average yields over site-years – although a very good place to start.  This may seem a little contradictory, but let me explain.

Certain varieties do better under high-yielding environments.  I like to call these “racehorse” varieties.  Choose such a variety if you want to win a yield contest.  Other varieties may yield more than others under stressful conditions.  I refer to these as “workhorses”.  And there are some that tend to do well, regardless of the yield potential – I’ll call these “quarter horses” (quarter horses can run very fast for short distances and you can still ride them long distances over quite rugged terrain).

Last year, we analyzed 5 years of variety test data and classified all varieties that we tested as one of the above.  Examples of our results are shown below. The graphs represent the yield of a single variety versus the yield of all varieties tested at that site and year.  Each symbol represents a different site-year.

To summarize, the vast majority of varieties are neither racehorses or workhorses; they perform equally in all yield environments.  So, averages will work just fine in most cases.  But, if you know you have a great- or poor yielding soil or if you are irrigating, then you may want to look into those varieties that fit that situation.

We have all of these data in an excel spreadsheet.  If interested, let me know; I’ll be happy to share upon request.

What’s the Best Soybean Maturity Group for your Farm

Yields are coming in from our variety tests – yields are good, not great, but good, ranging from the upper 40’s to low 70’s.  I hope to get a summary of the maturity group (MG) 3 and 4 tests out soon.  Be looking for them.

In the meantime, a questions that continues to arise if “What is the best maturity group for my farm?”  Or “What’s the best maturity group for my field?”  This is a very valid question.  Some years MG 4’s will shine and other years the MG 5’s are best.  Occasionally, MG 3 or 6 look good (the 6’s have been performing very well lately – as long as the frost holds off until mid-Nov!

An attempt was recently made (and published) to redrawn the MG lines in the U.S (Mourtzinis and Conley, 2017) – see the map to the upper right.  The researchers used variety test data from nearly all states to come up with the map shown.  While this map is more-or-less accurate when looking at the U.S. as a whole, it is not when you look closer (i.e., at individual states).

To better answer your questions regarding MG’s in Virginia, we took 10 years of our variety test data (around 15,000 plots) and began evaluating the probability of:

  1. a relative maturity (RM) yielding at least as high as the other RM’s tested at that location
  2. a RM yielding significantly higher than the other RM’s tested at that location.

Results are shown in the following graphs. Note that we split the results into full-season and double-crop soybean.  We have also divided each MG into early-, mid-, and late-RM’s.  The total bar height answers question 1 – the probability that the RM does at least as well at the others.  For instance, as expected, there is an 80 to 100% probability that MG 5’s will yield at least as much as other relative maturities in Blackstone (Southern Piedmont, droughty clay soils).

The hatched part of the bars answer question 2 – the probability that the RM yields significantly more that the other RM’s.  Using the Blackstone example, the 5’s yield significantly more than other MG’s 30 to 60% of the time.

Of course the “devil is in the details”.  There are soil properties and environmental conditions that control which RM is best in a given year.  If interested, contact me; I’ll give you my preliminary thoughts on that.  Rainfall is definitely the biggest influence – not how much we receive but when it falls; but that is random in Virginia.  There are other issues.

 

To summarize:

  • MG 3’s and 4’s are best suited for the most northern and western location (Orange).
  • MG 5’s perform best in our most southerly locations (Blackstone and Suffolk).  But, the late 4’s can make a strong showing in some years, especially at Suffolk (I think I know why; its not just when the rain fell. Contact me.)
  • Both MG 4’s and 5’s perform well at Warsaw (we can’t explain the full-season late-4 results, yet).  Note that yield potential of the later 5’s decline with double-crop plantings at this northerly, but Coastal Plain site (probably frost damage).
  • All MG 4’s (early, mid, and late) perform best when planted in May at our Eastern Shore location (Painter).  There are curious things happening here (while not that far south, its our most easterly and probably the most consistently favorable environment for growing soybean).  Note that early- and mid-4’s are no better than 5’s when planted double-crop.

1st Attempt at a Relative Maturity Map in Virginia

I’ve made an attempt at drawing a Virginia map.  But do not read too much into this!  This is based only on 5 locations (although 10 site-years and thousands of plots at each location) and the “devils in the detail”.  An I did not use GIS to draw this map (the lines are not 100% accurately located).

Do not assume that I want you to plant only these RM in these areas, only that these tend to do best in most years.

How do you use these data?  Make most of your chosen varieties fit these results.  However, allocate a smaller acreage to those RM’s that can occasionally break records.

On a closing note, these data also indicate that early RM’s do better on our best, most productive land.  But, that’s a topic for next week.

Link

Initial results from the 2016 Virginia state wheat and barley tests are available in excel format at:

www.grains.cses.vt.edu

The full document and summary is coming soon.