Art and Science of Soybean Maturity Ratings
Hot and dry, cold and wet, early spring, late spring, early frost, late frost … erratic weather has become the new norm. While full service ag retail, custom applicators and farmer customers bounce around scheduling like a pinball game, one of the few constants is recommended soybean maturities. The photo period-sensitive soybean is uniquely suited to flex with the weather, thanks to long refined and continually reevaluated maturity ratings. Add in the indeterminate nature of most varieties from group four and earlier maturities, and flexibility increases.
“Every soybean research station is georeferenced to where the soybeans will be planted and varieties evaluated for soil types and weather patterns in the area,” said Doug Tigges, genetics product manager, Syngenta Seeds. “Most new products are wide area tested for two years before launch. Putting a relative maturity rating on them is still a combination of art and science. We start with an estimated maturity rating based on parent lines, but it is finalized over the two years as it is compared to internal benchmarks such as a recognized standard variety.”
Tigges explained that in its first cross, a new variety population might have a half to a full maturity group range with a wide variety of plant heights. As the most desirable plant features are selected for, the maturity range narrows. It is that evaluation that involves the art. Although technology such as remote sensing and imaging may be used, it is the on-the-ground evaluation that is the final determinate. It is one reason that a Syngenta group 2.3 might not get the same exact rating from a competitive company. It is also why a group rating can change over time.
“We may say it is a relative maturity 4.1, but some years the product development team may say it looks more like a 4.3 or a 4.0,” said Tigges. “We may see a little variation over time; however, most growers likely won’t see a difference.”
RATINGS CHANGING AS PRODUCTION MOVES
A symbiotic expansion of planting and research by growers and companies is pushing soybeans farther west and farther north every year. Group zero soybeans have been supplanted by group double zero, and now triple zero, as soybeans make their way through North Dakota and into Montana and Manitoba.
“As we get into ever earlier varieties, it is even more important to have research located in the target geography,” said Steve Schnebly, senior research manager, soybeans, DuPont Pioneer. “We used to do a lot of group 00 and earlier product development research in North Dakota, and yet when those varieties went into Manitoba, they didn’t look as good.”
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