Choosing Genetics is the First Step to High Soybean Yields

September 27, 2018

There is no perfect soybean variety – but if growers choose the best genetics for their field environment, that management decision will deliver yield. That’s a strategy that Bryce Rampton, Syngenta soybean product development agronomist, shares with every grower he meets.

“I always recommend that they think genetics first,” says Rampton. “Many growers spend a lot of time identifying soybean varieties that have a yield punch and consistently perform well in yield trials. An equally important consideration, however, is how the variety stacks up against pests and disease.”

In Western Canada, Iron Deficiency Chlorosis (IDC), phytophthora root rot and white mould are just three of the many culprits lurking in fields that can crush yield expectations. That’s why it’s so critical to understand the genetic strengths and weaknesses of your varieties, explains Rampton.

Consider a variety’s disease and pest ratings

“It’s exciting to choose varieties that top the yield trials, but some of the most important information you need to consider are those disease and pest ratings,” he notes.

When working with growers, Rampton believes the discovery process is critically important. That’s when Syngenta agronomists identify environmental factors that must be factored into the genetics decision. Has the field been tested for IDC? Is there a history of white mould? What about phytophthora? Are soybeans being grown consecutively in the same field?

Choose a balanced variety

The answers to these questions will help growers choose the best and most balanced variety for the field environment. “In the corn industry, we’re always looking for a balanced hybrid,” explains Rampton. “We need to take the same approach with soybeans. Some people just think offence – grow the variety with the highest potential. But you also have to consider defence.”

When it comes to white mould, for example, genetics is the first line of defence. Fields with a history of white mould require a variety with a high rating for tolerance to the disease. “Our research and agronomy team has spent a lot of time determining our ratings for different diseases – it’s not easy, it takes a lot of work,” says Rampton. “Establishing yield potential is easy compared to figuring out the disease profile. But once you have these ratings, they’re very powerful.”

Intensify management to improve your defence

Often, genetics can’t defend against all the yield limiting factors in a field. This is where the  G x E x M approach plays a key role. “All soybean varieties have strengthes and weaknesses,” says Rampton. “The key is to identify genetic advantages that can boost your yield while intensifying your management to improve your defence.”

In Western Canada, Rampton recommends a balanced approach for growers who are concerned about IDC, phytophthora and white mould. In this case, a variety like S007-Y4 is a solid choice – it carries the Rps1c gene, as well as, for strong phytophthora field tolerance and also offers excellent white mould tolerance. S006-W5 is another good choice, notes Rampton. It features a unique Rps gene stack for superior phytophthora protection.

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