It would be nice if soybean varieties were ranked by how well they would perform in a particular field and farmers could simply choose the varieties that ranked the highest. Instead, the soybean variety selection process is much more complicated, especially when you consider that variety selection is a key component in pest management.
Unfortunately, no pest scouting or management techniques have the power to improve the yield potential of soybeans. Yes, these practices will help varieties to perform better by reducing loss from pathogens, pests and other factors but yield potential is equally, if not more, important to farmers. And rightly so.
Pest resistance is critical to a successful yield. But ask farmers if they would be willing to choose a low-yield soybean variety based on its pest resistance and the answer would be a resounding no.
Soybean variety selection should never be based on how well a line did in the past. Instead it should be based on how it is predicted to do in the future. And those predictions should come from multi-environmental trial averages. Without this type of information, a successful crop is unlikely.
When you choose varieties based on a single location, all you will know is how a particular variety performed in a particular environment. And “environment” is an exceptionally broad term, encompassing everything from soil type to weather to pests to pathogens. Because of this, the same results can never be duplicated.
Your best bet, then, is to select a variety that performs well in multiple environments. This information will be available in reports that show averages over time and in varying locations.
In the end, the best variety selections will come down to two elements: high yield and risk management. Yield is the simple part. Risk management is much more complex as it has to do with everything from how many varieties you select, the maturities of these varieties, defense traits, seed treatments and acres planted.
It is easy to become overwhelmed when it comes to assessing risk. However, if you adhere to the following guidelines, you should feel confident in your final soybean variety selection:
- Use multiple-location data to make predictive selection decisions.
- Sort your data in terms of yield and make initial selections based on yield and appropriate maturity.
- Once you have your initial selections, pare those down by lines with the desired mix of defensive traits.
In the end, it all comes to down to having as much reliable information as you can get your hands on. Once you have done your due diligence you can be confident that you did all that you could to select the best soybean variety possible.