Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on August 25, 2005. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Research helped soybeans gain status in Mississippi
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Before new soybean technologies arrived, soybeans were losing ground in the state, so Mississippi State University researchers looked for opportunities to improve this crop's potential.
In the 1970s and 1980s, state average soybean yields were 22 bushels an acre. Most producers kept this crop on heavy soil and grew it alone or rotated it with rice. Soybean irrigation was limited, and producers made few inputs due to marginal profits.
Today, soybeans are a viable crop in Mississippi. Last year, the state averaged a record 39 bushels an acre.
"Nothing we've done is rocket science," said Alan Blaine, soybean specialist with the MSU Extension Service.
In the 1970s, Edgar Hartwig, a U.S. Department of Agriculture soybean breeder in Stoneville, identified some good soybean varieties that performed well in the South.
"All we did from there was capitalized on his initial efforts," Blaine said.
Since the majority of the state's soybean crop is nonirrigated, MSU researchers began looking at early maturing varieties. Those planted early and that mature early are established before the heat and often drought of Mississippi summers set in.
"Today early planting is the norm," Blaine said. "At least 75 percent of the crop this year was considered early."
Blaine said four things have made soybeans a better crop in Mississippi: early planting, the use of early maturing varieties, increased management and the addition of Roundup Ready technology.
"The willingness of growers in the state to believe in us and follow our recommendations is also part of the success of soybeans in Mississippi," Blaine said.
Much of the ongoing education in soybean management is accomplished through the Soybean Management by Application of Research and Technology, or SMART, program. This effort is funded by the Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board, and this year, it helped 32 producers intensively manage their crop.
"SMART has given us the opportunity to practice what we preach," Blaine said. "Producers stay in the program for two years, and during that time, we visit each of their farms once and sometimes twice a week during the growing season. We examine the fields with the producers, and work with them to make management decisions for the crop."
Blaine said he hopes SMART producers continue to follow the management practices even after leaving the program, and that current fields serve as educational tools for producers in their community.
A big part of managing is selecting what to work with. Bernie White, manager of variety evaluations with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said MAFES is testing 301 soybean varieties this year.
"The majority of what people look at when selecting a variety is yield potential and resistance to disease," White said.
Each year, data from the variety trials are posted online and published through the Extension Service. In addition to yield potential and disease resistance, the data includes plant height, lodging, maturity groups and other information.
"Our job is to test these varieties and present the information in a totally unbiased way," White said. "Producers need to have somebody say, 'We put all these varieties on a level playing field, and here are the results.'"
MAFES has six test locations where it grows soybeans under a variety of irrigated and nonirrigated conditions. Test plots can be found in Stoneville, Clarksdale, Hollandale, Olive Branch, Crawford and Redwood.
White said producers use each year's data as soon as it is released to select the varieties they will plant in the coming year.
"The variety you select is like the foundation of your house," White said. "If you choose a variety with low yield potential, that's just something you really can't overcome later with good management."
Soybean variety trial information can be found online at http://www.msucares.com/ crops/variety/.