Taking a look at the averages from the 2011 Soybean Variety Testing Program coordinated by the University of Missouri, soybean yields were surprisingly good. All but the Southwest region were able to top 50 bushels per acre, despite heavy rains, flooding, replanting, and later on, heat and drought.
"Our experiments averaged 56 bushels per acre for the 376 soybean varieties that we tested at 20 farms across the state," says Howard Mason, MU agronomist and variety testing coordinator.
Within those averages, however, are some yield results that are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. On the positive side of the ledger, all four experiments in the Missouri Bootheel were irrigated this year and "the results were striking," Mason says.
For example, every site in the Southeast region had at least one variety that yielded over 80 bushels per acre. Within the Maturity Group 4 test, each of the four sites within the Southeast region had a test-topping variety that hit 80 bushels or more: A Progeny 4910 variety topped the Chaffee site with an 80.9-bushel yield; the Terrel REV 48R33 variety hit 81.6 at Morehouse; a Progeny 4510RY variety topped the Portageville clay site with an 80.1-bushel yield; and Pioneer 94Y91 produced a site-best yield of 80.3 bushels at the Portageville loam location. A Pioneer 95Y50 variety turned in the state's overall best performance, cranking out 85.1 bushels per acre in the Maturity Group 5 test at the Morehouse site in the Southeast region.
On the other side of the coin, yields struggled in the Southwest region. Each of the five sites within the Southwest regional test had to be replanted in June after heavy rains ruined stands that had been established in May. The brutal summer then took its toll. The Urich site, for example, could only muster an overall test average of 33 bushels per acre.
"It seems like we couldn't catch a break from the July to September drought," Mason points out. "Most locations had far below normal rainfall for this period. As a general rule, the earlier soybean varieties yielded more than the later ones, likely due to how much moisture was available when the plants were filling the pods."
Trials are grown on farms of the MU Agricultural Experiment Station and cooperating farmers across the state. Soybeans were first included in the MU variety-testing program in 1973. The number of entries in the program has increased from 51 in 1973 to a record 420 in 2010.
The report comes from the Division of Plant Sciences, MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. The testing program supports itself with fees paid by participating companies. All test results and variety comparisons are on the MU website at http://varietytesting.missouri.edu. You can also obtain a printed copy of the soybean test at local MU Extension offices.