Research HighlightsMid-South Soybean Variety Trials: A New Resource for Farmers
By Carol Brown
Soybean farmers in the Mid-South have a new resource to help with decision-making on variety selection and management. Launched in October 2021, the Mid-South Soybean Variety Trials is a central hub for soybean variety trial data in the region.
Through a project supported by the United Soybean Board (USB), the website is the result of information gathered from individual state soybean variety trials for Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. The goal of the project is to make it easier for producers to find needed data, so they don’t have to go to multiple state trial sites and consolidate the information themselves.
“In Tennessee, we have this long, narrow state with multiple growing regions,” says Virginia Sykes, plant sciences assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, who leads the project and the Tennessee soybean variety trials. “Using data from variety testing locations solely within Tennessee is likely not as predictive as combining data from across multiple states. We’re trying to provide the best performance data by growing region, which is hard to do if it’s broken up by state.”
With this tool, which is housed on USB’s Market View Database, producers can look at specific locations within their growing region to see what’s performing best. Sykes believes it will provide much better prediction for farmers and they could see higher yields and more sustainable production because they can find soybean varieties that will fit their system better.
“I think the map feature is unique to this site. People can see all the different locations making it easier to select areas relevant to them,” Sykes says. “If we had used a drop-down list of county names, those names might not mean anything to a user who doesn’t live in that state. We were adamant that the map had to be prominent on this database.”
Users can select filters for maturity group, herbicide tolerance, soil type, irrigated vs. non-irrigated trial results, and double crop vs. standard soybean production and more to shape the data to their particular needs and farm management system.
“People will have more information about quality, yield, and other agronomic traits, so they can ensure the variety will work well with their farming system,” she says. “We also plan to expand the site to include additional states and weather data in the near future.”
Sykes leads the project, but there’s a larger planning group behind all this information. The website is a product of the variety testing coordinators from these states. This group has been meeting regularly to visualize the database and how it could be used successfully.
“We conducted a survey first to find out what data was important for producers,” says Sykes. “We’ve been discussing as a team, along with a software development company, to decide what data to include and how to present it.”
Now that the database is live, the next step is to encourage its use and find out what needs to be adjusted. David Holshouser, soybean agronomist at Virginia Tech, has been promoting the database to county agents and has presented to farmers at field days and continues to promote the database at winter extension meetings. “It’s a good tool and I’ve heard very positive feedback about it,” says Holshouser. “Generally, producers believe this will help them with their variety selection. They like the filters that can help them sort through what is important to them.”
Included on the website is a link to a survey, which allows users to share what they like and don’t like about it. In Holshouser’s presentations, he stresses the importance of completing the survey when farmers use the site. The team reviews all the surveys and several suggestions have resulted in changes to the tool, he says.
Sykes agrees and says information continues to be added as they progress.
“Our goal is to put the information in one place to make it easily accessible,” Sykes says.
“We use the survey feedback to continue improving the database content and options to so it can meet producers’ needs more effectively.”