March 04, 2024

New traits, genetics drive yields

Marc Hoobler

DECATUR, Ill. — In-season management only goes so far in achieving optimum yield without selecting the right soybean varieties to provide the initial foundation.

Marc Hoobler, BASF U.S. soybean agronomy lead, stressed the need for getting plants off to a good start in a recent interview with AgriNews.

What are your recommendations in terms of setting the stage for yield success?

Hoobler: It all starts with seed. We’ve looked at some results. The Farmers Independent Research and Seed Technologies yield trials found that over the last 12 years the average high yield versus the average low yield within their dataset is almost 19 bushels an acre top to bottom. That’s a big spread.

Variety selection, how you manage it, where you put it, is really critical to maximize soybean yield.

What type of commitment does BASF have going forward in seed, technology and research to help farmers?

Hoobler: We are one of six companies really focused on breeding new genetics in the U.S. and we’re only one of four developing new traits. We’re making a lot of investments in those two areas specifically and it all starts with the seed. Genetics is what’s going to drive yield forward faster.

We’re also looking at different ways to manage soybeans. One of the things we’re really focused on it getting growers to plant earlier. We’ve seen in Iowa and Illinois that you actually can lose about a half bushel an acre every day you go past about April 15 to plant.

So, we’re really pushing early planting. Seed treatment is obviously allowing us to do more and more of that.

As part of that effort, what are some of the new varieties ready for release in 2024?

Hoobler: We’re real excited at BASF to be launching 11 new varieties in the Xitavo soybean seed brand for 2024. We’re already looking forward to the next crop year.

The new varieties have relative maturities from a 0.0 all the way to a 4.8. So, that will complement the rest of our portfolio.

All new varieties featured Enlist E3 technology to combat weeds. We want to give soybean growers complete confidence in their weed control programs, so all new varieties support versatility and include the Enlist E3 triple-stack, herbicide-tolerant trait.

We’re up to about 44 varieties total and we’re really focused on the Midwest soybean market.

What are some of the new genetics that are coming out?

Hoobler: For 2024 and beyond, of those 11 new varieties, a couple of them are Peking varieties. Most folks are starting to become more and more aware of the soybean cyst nematode problem that we do have in the U.S., and that’s one more additional tool that we can provide growers to help combat that pest.

I believe it’s almost up to $1.5 billion annually — 5 bushels an acre on average — is what SCN is robbing from soybean growers in the U.S.

Unfortunately, once the crop is planted, there’s really no corrective measure after that. So, you have to manage with variety selection. That’s important. We have some native resistance in PI88788, as well as Peking. We have seed treatments like ILeVO that will help mitigate the stress of SCN.

BASF will launch a GMO trait towards the end of this decade, the first-ever GMO trait to combat SCN.

We’re really excited making investments in soybeans. It’s a strategic crop globally for BASF and it’s important for farmers in the U.S. because they’re going to have access to new genetics, new traits, etcetera, to help them really solve some of the problems they have in soybean production.

There is concern that SCN will become more and more resistant to Peking and PI88788 going forward, right?

Hoobler: That $1.5 billion loss is with the native traits and the seed treatments that we have today. We are losing efficacy with PI88788. I always caution people, Peking is just another tool in the toolbox. Don’t look at it like it’s going to be a silver bullet because that particular trait may not be quite as durable as the PI88788 has been.

We really need to steward that, be cautious, not overuse it. It’s a bit of a three-legged stool right now. Crop rotation is important, it’s variety selection and it’s seed treatment.

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor