Selecting soybean varieties for 2016

Maximize farm income by selecting high-yielding and pest-resistant soybean varieties.

The soybean varieties you select will directly affect your yield potential and income in 2016. Because of this, Michigan State University Extension recommends selecting 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. MSU Extension analyzed yield data from the Michigan Soybean Performance Reports from 2009 to 2014 to demonstrate how dramatically variety selection impacts soybean yields and income. 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 (bushel per acre)

High minus the low (bushel per acre)



















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 ($ per acre)

High minus the low ($ per acre)



















1Economic advantage was determined by multiplying the yield advantage of the highest yielding varieties by the USDA average prices received for each marketing year – $9.59 per bushel for 2009-2010, $11.30 per bushel for 2010-2011, $12.50 per bushel for 2011-2012, $14.40 per bushel for 2012-2013, $13 per bushel for 2013-2014 and $10.06 per bushel for 2014-2015 (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 2015 report is available at the MSU Variety Trials website and was also published in the Dec. 1 issue of the Michigan Farm News and will be sent directly to all soybean producers in Michigan by the Michigan Soybean Checkoff.


An analysis of soybean yield and maturity data from the 2009-2013 Michigan Soybean Performance Reports showed that maturity has little effect on soybean yields as long as the highest-yielding varieties are selected within the adapted maturity range for the area. The analysis also showed that on average, soybean harvest operations are delayed by one day for each 0.1 increase in soybean maturity group. This analysis supports the MSU Extension recommendation of planting a range of soybean maturity groups. For more information, see the following MSU Extension articles: “What is the relationship between soybean maturity group and yield?” and “Should you plant earlier maturing soybean varieties?

Pest and pathogen resistance

Significant yield reductions from soybean aphids, soybean diseases such as Phytophthora root and stem rot, white mold, sudden death syndrome and soybean cyst nematodes can be reduced by selecting resistant or tolerant varieties. In fact, variety selection is your best option for managing these pests. The 2015 Soybean Performance Report lists the genetic resistance to Phytophthora of the varieties tested. However, seed suppliers are the best source for more specific information, such as sudden death syndrome, Phytophthora and white mold tolerance for each of their varieties.

Iowa State University conducts the most comprehensive soybean cyst nematode resistant variety trials in the United States. The annual report, Iowa State University Extension publication IPM 52, provides the source of soybean cyst nematode resistance, yield performance and soybean cyst nematode population suppression effects for all the entered varieties. The 2015 report will be available online by the end of December at the Iowa State University SCN-Resistant Soybean Variety Trials website.

The information published in the Iowa State University trials should be transferable and useful on your farm provided the maturity groups tested are adapted to your farm and the soybean cyst nematode population type at the trials is similar to the soybean cyst nematode population type in your fields. This is another reason for having your soybean cyst nematode-infested fields type tested. Producers are encouraged to rotate sources of soybean cyst nematode resistance and seed suppliers are the best place to get information regarding the source of the soybean cyst nematode resistance for their soybean cyst nematode 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.

Michigan Soybean Performance Report searchable database is also 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 Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Soybean Checkoff program.

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