Are two varieties better than one?

Researcher highlights the benefits and difficulties of multi-variety planting for soybeans.

By Lauren Arva
Staff Writer
Better Farming

The multi-variety technology for soybeans is fundamentally sound, says Andrew Klopfenstein, senior research associate engineer at Ohio State University.

“We’ve had very few mechanical issues with any of the technology we’ve tested,” he says to Better Farming. “There’s tons of potential.”

The process of multi-variety planting for soybeans is very similar to that of corn, he explains.

“But you have to change your thinking a little bit on your populations … where you would plant high populations in corn, you would plant low populations in soybeans,” he adds.

Multi-variety planting involves seeding two varieties, as opposed to just one, in a field. Producers select an offensive variety, which is best suited for higher-yielding soils, and a defensive variety, which is better suited for tougher ground.

One of the main difficulties with multi-hybrid planting for both corn and soybeans is matching the hybrids or varieties to soil landscapes.

“The potential is there, it’s just making sure we have fundamentally sound data to make the decision that (we) can make a variety map. (Overall), 75 to 90 per cent of growers have technology for variable rate seeding, but very few of them use it,” Klopfenstein says.

And growers find it challenging to make the leap from traditional planting to both variable rating seeding and changing their hybrids on the go, he says.

“It’s like you’re going from crawling to a full sprint, and it’s very difficult.”

To help give farmers more useable data, Nebraska researchers are also looking at seed treatment, using the same variety and testing seed treatments in areas with SDS (sudden death syndrome), he says.

“They’re finding benefits in seeding treatment on areas where SDS is really bad. ... In a lot of our research, we’re trying to match the hybrid and the rate based on (factors) like slope, elevation and soil type and organic matter.

dry soybeans in field
    josemoraes/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

“We work (with) yield maps, too. But we’re finding that, if you don’t have good yield maps and fundamentally sound data layers, you can make a really big mistake in a hurry.”

To have a successful crop from multi-variety planting, all parties involved must find common ground, Klopfenstein adds.

“You have to have full buy-in from three people: … the farmer, the agronomist, and the seed salesperson. All three must agree on where you’re putting your hybrid. If you put the wrong hybrid in the wrong spot, it can be very costly.” BF

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