Selecting soybean varieties for 2019

Maximize farm income by selecting high-yielding and pest-resistant soybean varieties.

Tractor harvesting soybeans
Photo by Mike Staton, MSU Extension

Editor's note: The dollar values in Table 2 were incorrect when originally published in December 2018 and were updated in February 2019. The author sincerely apologizes for any inconveniences this may have caused.

The soybean varieties you select will directly affect your yield potential and income in 2019. Because of this, Michigan State University Extension recommends considering yield, pest and pathogen resistance, maturity, lodging and quality when selecting varieties.


Yield is one of the most important characteristics to consider when selecting soybean varieties. MSU Extension analyzed yield data from the Michigan Soybean Performance Reports from 2013 to 2018 to demonstrate how dramatically variety selection impacts soybean yields and income. Table 1 summarizes how variety selection impacted soybean yield and Table 2 shows how variety selection affected gross income.

Table 1. Yield advantage of the highest-yielding soybean varieties over the average yield of all the varieties and the lowest-yielding varieties averaged across all locations and maturity groups from the “Michigan Soybean Performance Reports” (Roundup Ready varieties only).


High minus the average (bushels per acre)

High minus the low (bushels per acre)




















Table 2. Economic advantage¹ of the highest-yielding soybean varieties over the average yield of all the varieties and the lowest-yielding varieties averaged across all locations and maturity groups from the “Michigan Soybean Performance Reports” (Roundup Ready varieties only).


High minus the average ($ per acre)

High minus the low ($ per acre)



















¹Economic advantage was determined by multiplying the yield advantage of the highest yielding varieties by the USDA average prices received for each marketing year – $13 per bushel for 2013-2014; $10.10 per bushel for 2014-2015; $8.95 per bushel for 2015-2016; $9.47 per bushel for 2016-2017; $9.33 for 2017-2018 (estimated); and $8.60 for 2018-2019 (projected).

The yield potential under ideal growing conditions varies among varieties and the maximum yield potential of a given variety is also affected by weather and other environmental conditions. A variety that has the highest yield potential under ideal conditions may not yield as well as others when confronted with yield-limiting factors. Research has shown that evaluating performance over a wide range of locations and over multiple years will help you select the best adapted varieties for your farm. The Michigan Soybean Performance Report is an excellent source for this information. The 2018 report is available at the MSU Variety Trials website and was also published in the Michigan Farm News and sent directly to Michigan soybean producers by the Michigan Soybean Checkoff.


An analysis of soybean yield and maturity data from the 2009-2016 Michigan Soybean Performance Reports showed that maturity has little effect on soybean yields as long as the highest-yielding varieties are selected within the adapted maturity range for the area. The analysis also showed that on average, soybean harvest operations are delayed by one day for each 0.1 increase in soybean maturity group. This analysis supports the MSU Extension recommendation of planting varieties from a range of adapted soybean maturity groups.

Pest and pathogen resistance

Significant yield losses from soybean aphids, soybean diseases such as Phytophthora root and stem rot, white mold, sudden death syndrome and soybean cyst nematodes can be reduced by selecting resistant or tolerant varieties. In fact, variety selection is your best option for managing these pests. The 2018 Soybean Performance Report lists the genetic resistance to Phytophthora of the varieties tested. However, seed suppliers are the best source for more specific information, such as sudden death syndrome, Phytophthora and white mold tolerance for each of their varieties.

Iowa State University conducts the most comprehensive soybean cyst nematode resistant variety trials in the United States. The annual report, Iowa State University Extension publication IPM 52, provides the source of soybean cyst nematode resistance, yield performance and soybean cyst nematode population suppression effects for all the entered varieties. The 2018 report is available online at the Iowa State University SCN-Resistant Soybean Variety Trials website.

The information published in the Iowa State University trials should be transferable and useful on your farm provided the varieties tested are adapted to your farm and the soybean cyst nematode population type at the trials is similar to the soybean cyst nematode population type in your fields. This is one more reason for having your soybean cyst nematode-infested fields type tested. Producers are encouraged to rotate sources of soybean cyst nematode resistance and seed suppliers are the best place to get information regarding the source of the soybean cyst nematode resistance for their soybean cyst nematode resistant varieties. The 2018 Michigan Soybean Performance Report lists the SCN source of resistance for most of the entries.


Lodged soybean plants can increase harvest losses and significantly delay harvest operations. Lodging problems are most likely to occur when soybeans are grown on muck soils or under irrigation. Use the Michigan Soybean Performance Report to obtain lodging scores for the varieties entered in the trials.


Producers should also consider quality characteristics when selecting soybean varieties. Some of our leading export markets demand soybeans consisting of 19 percent oil and 35 percent protein.  Soybean producers need to meet this standard to maintain access to these markets. Oil and protein levels vary among varieties, so producers should select varieties containing 19 percent oil and 35 percent protein when possible. The Michigan Soybean Performance Report lists the oil and protein levels for all of the entries.

Michigan Soybean Performance Report searchable database is also available online. The searchable database enables soybean producers to input specific search criteria such as soybean cyst nematode resistance, Phytophthora resistance, protein and oil content and maturity to identify the highest-yielding varieties having the selected characteristics.

This article was produced by the SMaRT project (Soybean Management and Research Technology). The SMaRT project was developed to help Michigan producers increase soybean yields and farm profitability. SMaRT is a partnership between Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Soybean Checkoff program.

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