Selecting Seed for Success Dr. John F. Bradley Conservation Tillage Specialist Monsanto Company

AS CROPS ARE being harvested and yields are calculated, planning must begin for the 2001 crop production year. Growers should decide which varieties or hybrids to plant in the spring as early as November or December. There are several reasons why it is a good idea to `book' orders with seed companies early. Early ordering improves your chances of obtaining the varieties with the most desirable traits and adaptability to your area. If orders are placed early, growers can sometimes save money and may also have the option to have their dealer custom apply seed treatments. Seed treatments may include insecticides, fungicides or both.

When choosing varieties and/or hybrids, the criteria which should receive the highest priority is yield. Normally, growers want to select varieties/hybrids that perform above the average for a number of years. It's a good idea to pay attention to University recommendations on varieties. University recommendations of varieties are usually not issued until a variety performs above the average for at least three years. It is also worthwhile to look at variety tests conducted by local extension services, seed companies and your own on-farm comparisons.

Other factors to consider when selecting seed for your farm are the type of tillage system you are using and seed company purchase programs, term conditions and partnerships. It is also a good idea to pick two or three varieties with different rates of maturity for each crop. Following are some guidelines to use when choosing cotton and soybean varieties and corn hybrids.

Cotton Variety Selection Lint yield is the most important factor to consider when selecting cotton varieties. Try to select a variety with high yield potential and consistency. Another important factor to consider is the fiber quality of the variety. This includes characteristics such as fiber strength, length, uniformity, micronaire and percent gin turnout.

Depending on the growing conditions on your farm and your production system, it may be necessary to choose a variety with certain herbicide-tolerant or insect-tolerant traits. Varieties containing the Roundup Ready[R] trait provide excellent weed control options, particularly in conservation tillage and ultra narrow row cotton. If insect populations are high on your farm, try using the insect-tolerant Bollgard[R] varieties that protect cotton against bollworm, budworm and pink bollworm. For effective control of weeds and insects, order the stacked-gene varieties that contain both Bollgard and Roundup Ready technologies.

Other characteristics worth examining when choosing cotton varieties for your farm are disease resistance or tolerance, nematode resistance, picking or stripping ease, seedling vigor and the plant's ability to withstand storms (especially in coastal areas). Diseases that certain varieties may be able to protect your crop from include Fusarium wilt, Verticillium wilt, bacterial blight, seedling disease, Ascochyta blight and bronze wilt. Once you know what you are looking for in a variety, your seed selection should be based on availability, quality and the desired seed treatments available for that variety.

Soybean Variety Selection There are literally hundreds of soybean varieties from which to choose. These varieties differ in yield potential, maturity date, growth characteristics, lodging and shattering susceptibility, disease resistance and tolerance to herbicides. All of these characteristics are important, but the number-one criteria for variety selection in soybeans is yield. Fortunately, there are high-yielding varieties available in all maturity groups. The soybean varieties you choose should be the varieties that are the best match for your farm situation. Choose soybean varieties that offer the most yield potential for your tillage system, soil type and row width. It's also a good idea to review county tests, university trials or company trials to find out how these varieties perform in your area.

The second most important characteristic to examine when choosing soybean varieties is whether or not they are herbicide tolerant or Roundup Ready. Last year over 54 percent of the U.S. soybean crop was planted in varieties containing the Roundup Ready gene. The Roundup Ready gene facilitates economical, simple and crop safe weed control.

Roundup Ready soybeans are an excellent choice if you are planning to use a no-till or conservation tillage system in the coming year. Certain varieties of Asgrow soybeans have been labeled "Residue Proven[TM]" because of their proven performance in no-till and reduced-tillage conditions. Varieties appropriate for the south contain the Roundup Ready gene, enhanced disease tolerance, resistance to soybean cyst nematode, and have excellent emergence and seedling vigor.

Another very important factor when choosing soybean varieties is maturity. Varieties of different maturity groups will extend the harvest period to allow for more acreage to be harvested per combine and to serve as a hedge against adverse weather conditions. In recent years, better varieties have been developed for the Mid-South in maturity groups IV and V. These varieties can be planted early in the season (April) and have the potential to increase yields by avoiding dry weather and high temperatures in late summer. It is important to note that most of these varieties need to be planted earlier than later maturity groups in order to reach their full yield potential.

Another important characteristic to look for when selecting soybean varieties is soybean cyst nematode resistance (SCN). If soybeans are not grown in rotation with non-host crops such as corn, cotton and/or milo, it becomes even more crucial to have SCN resistance. Examine soil samples for SCN in the fall and determine which races are present in your fields. Then, select varieties with SCN resistance to those races.

Other characteristics to consider when selecting soybean varieties are plant height, lodging rating, shatter rating, root knot nematode tolerance and disease resistance. Some varieties are resistant to diseases such as stem canker, sudden death syndrome, and frogeye leaf spot. Select high quality seed with at least 80% germination.

Corn Hybrid Selection When selecting corn hybrids, consider some of the same characteristics that you would take into account when choosing soybean varieties, such as yield and maturity. In addition, think about what type of technology traits are necessary for good yields from corn planted on your farm. Many hybrids also feature the technology of Roundup Ready. If your corn typically suffers from infestation by insects, you may want to consider hybrids that contain the insect-tolerant YieldGard[R] gene, which protects corn against European and Southwestern corn borer. By ordering stacked-gene corn, you can receive the benefits of both the YieldGard and Roundup Ready traits.

Other characteristics to consider that are unique to corn are stalk strength, ear tip cover and virus resistance. Look for hybrids that may offer resistance to maize dwarf mosaic virus, corn stunt and the virus-microplasm complex, which could drastically reduce yields in years when conditions favor disease development. As always, it is a good idea to talk to your local dealer or county extension agent, and to review university tests and comparisons on your own farm before ordering.

Grain/commodities harvested from Roundup Ready[R] corn and Roundup Ready corn with YieldGard[R] is approved for U.S. food and feed use, but not yet approved in certain export markets where approval is not likely to be received before the end of 2001. As a result, the Grower is restricted from introducing such grain/commodities into channels of trade where the potential for export to such markets exists. The Grower must channel such grain/commodities for feeding on farm, use in domestic feed lots or other uses in domestic markets only. Growers should refer to Monsanto's Technology Use Guide for information on crop stewardship regarding the potential movement of pollen to neighboring crops. For assistance in locating domestic outlets for all other corn grain/commodities, view the ASTA web site at www.amseed.org or contact Monsanto at 1-800-768-6387. Roundup Ready[R] and YieldGard[R] are registered trademarks of, and used under license from, Monsanto Company.