Selecting soybean varieties for 2013

How to maximize your farm income by selecting high-yielding and pest resistant soybean varieties.

The soybean varieties you select will directly affect your yield potential and profits. For this reason, select your varieties on the basis of yield, pest and pathogen resistance, maturity, lodging and quality. 


Yield is the most important characteristic to consider when selecting soybean varieties. Michigan State University Extension analyzed yield data from the Michigan Soybean Performance Reports from 2006 to 2011 to demonstrate how dramatically variety selection impacts soybean yields and profitability. Table 1 summarizes how variety selection impacted soybean yield, and Table 2 shows how variety selection affected gross income.

Table 1.  Yield advantage of the highest-yielding soybean varieties over the average yield of all the varieties and the lowest-yielding varieties averaged across all locations and maturity groups from the “Michigan Soybean Performance Reports” (Roundup Ready varieties only).


High Minus
  the Average (bu/ac)

High Minus
  the Low (bu/ac)



















Table 2. 1Economic advantage of the highest-yielding soybean varieties over the average yield of all the varieties and the lowest-yielding varieties averaged across all locations and maturity groups from the “Michigan Soybean Performance Reports” (Roundup Ready varieties only).


High Minus
  the Average ($/ac)

High Minus
  the Low ($/ac)



















1Economic advantage was determined by multiplying the yield advantage of the highest yielding varieties by the USDA average prices received for each marketing year—$10.10/bu in 2007-08, $9.97/bu in 2008-09, $9.59/bu for 2009, $11.30 for 2010, and $12.50 for 2011-2012 (estimated). 

The yield potential under ideal growing conditions varies among varieties and the maximum yield potential of a given variety is also affected by weather and other environmental conditions. A variety that has the highest yield potential under ideal conditions may not yield as well as others when confronted with yield-limiting factors. Research has shown that evaluating performance over a wide range of locations and over multiple years will help you select the best adapted varieties for your farm. The “Michigan Soybean Performance Report” is an excellent source for this information. The 2012 “Michigan Soybean Performance Report” will be posted online at the MSU Variety Trials website in mid-November, published in the Michigan Farm News and sent directly to all soybean producers in Michigan by the Michigan Soybean Checkoff.


The maturity range of the varieties you select also affects your net income. Always select varieties that will reach physiological maturity prior to a killing frost. Selecting soybean varieties that are too early for a given area will lead to lower yields as the plants will probably be short and fill seeds under hotter and drier conditions. Selecting varieties that are too late increases the risk of frost and freeze damage. Earlier maturing soybean varieties may be the best choice in fields where wheat will be planted the following fall or lodging has been a problem. 

Pest and pathogen resistance

Significant yield reductions from soybean aphids, soybean diseases such as Phytophthora root and stem rot, white mold, sudden death syndrome (SDS) and soybean cyst nematodes (SCN) can be prevented by selecting resistant or tolerant varieties. Limited supplies of varieties containing the “SPARTA” aphid-resistant germplasm developed at MSU will be available in 2013. SPARTA research was funded by the Michigan Soybean Checkoff program. The 2012 MSU Soybean Performance Report lists the genetic resistance to Phytophthora of the varieties tested. Seed suppliers and university performance trials are also good sources of information about varieties’ tolerance to SDS and Phytophthora. Southern Illinois University and the University of Illinois have excellent data regarding the SDS tolerance of varieties. Producers are encouraged to rotate sources of SCN resistance and seed suppliers are the best place to get information regarding the source of the SCN resistance for their SCN resistant varieties.


Lodged soybean plants can increase harvest losses and significantly delay harvest operations. Lodging problems are most likely to occur when soybeans are grown on muck soils or under irrigation. Use the “Michigan Soybean Performance Report” to obtain lodging scores for the varieties entered in the trials.


Producers should also consider quality characteristics when selecting soybean varieties. Asian buyers demand soybeans consisting of 19 percent oil and 35 percent protein. Because Asian markets account for more than 50 percent of U.S. soybean exports, soybean producers need to meet this standard to maintain access to these markets. Oil and protein levels vary among varieties, so producers should select varieties containing 19 percent oil and 35 percent protein when possible. The Michigan Soybean Performance Report lists the oil and protein levels for all of the entries.  

A new searchable database for the Michigan Soybean Performance Report is available online. The searchable database enables soybean producers to input specific search criteria such as soybean cyst nematode resistance, phytophthora resistance, protein and oil content and maturity to identify the highest-yielding varieties having the selected characteristics.

This article was produced by the SMaRT project (Soybean Management and Research Technology). The SMaRT project was developed to help Michigan producers increase soybean yields and farm profitability. SMaRT is a partnership between MSU Extension and the Michigan Soybean Checkoff program.

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