Overwhelmed by seed options?

Keep these 4 things in mind to narrow the field.

soyean bag
Photo courtesy United Soybean Board

Harvest may seem like a distant memory, but many growers started thinking about the next growing season and selecting the following year’s seeds as they were sitting in the combine the previous fall.

With all of the promotional material and varieties out there, narrowing the spectrum to a handful of varieties can be a daunting task. To make things easier, the United Soybean Board provides these four things to keep in mind when choosing varieties:

Know what works for your farm

Your farm is unique, and nobody knows it better than you. Your fields have specific soil types, fertility levels, pest susceptibility and crop histories. You know which varieties you’ve used in the past that have worked well and which didn’t.

Keep these factors in mind when making seed decisions.

Kyle Bridgeforth, a farmer from Tanner, Alabama, keeps yield records of every variety he plants.

“We largely base our decisions on our personal records of yield performance and the local experiment station’s yield report,” Bridgeforth says. “Yield history and yield potential are some of the most influential factors we look at.”

Quint Pottinger, who farms in New Haven, Kentucky, takes a different approach with his variety research by working with his seed dealers to plant test plots.

“It’s a hassle,” Pottinger says. “A plot we put in this year, 12 varieties in one plot, took six hours to plant. But I’m going to have good data for the varieties I choose to put in next year or the year after that, because we took the time to plant a test plot.”

Have a backup plan

Weather delays can throw a wrench into your plan without warning, as much of the Mid-South realized during 2019’s wet spring. That influenced which crops many farmers chose to plant last season.

It could also affect the quantity of seed available, as it did during 2019. Even though you’ve placed orders for your preferred varieties, have a list of varieties that work well on your farm — but might not be your No. 1 choice — in the back of your mind in case of an unforeseen event.

Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket

Sometimes varieties that are advertised as high yielders don’t live up to their name. It happens. It may have been weather; it may have been a disease that was present on your farm that the variety was unusually susceptible to; or it may have just been a fluke.

Save yourself the pain of what could be an expensive mistake by selecting more than one variety for each crop on your farm.

Have a crop plan

“It’s important for farmers to develop a crop plan,” Pottinger says. “Our crop plan isn’t a year-to-year thing; it’s something that we’ve mapped out for the next five years. This year’s crop is made; you’ve got to be thinking about next year’s crop and even the crops that are coming in behind it in the next two or three years.”

Having a crop plan will keep you thinking about the future: How will this disease or insect impact my next crop? Which inputs will I use to treat it? Will my plan change if prices drop lower or suddenly jump to record highs?

“The economics will affect our seeding decisions, as they always do,” Bridgeforth says.

The bottom line

• Factor in your soil type, soil fertility and ongoing pest issues when selecting varieties.

• Select a variety capable of performing across a range of environmental conditions, such as excessively dry or excessively wet weather.

• Spread your risk by selecting more than one variety from more than one brand.

• Yield potential is attractive, but consider the historical performance of the variety on your farm and in your area. Don’t sacrifice built-in resistance for a few extra bushels.

Article contributed by the United Soybean Board.

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