The first step in maximizing profit on an expected increase in soybean acreage in the upper Southeast is choosing the best variety to fit into a particular set of growing conditions.

Fortunately for growers, experts agree varieties are now available to fit most any growing conditions found in the region.

Despite a recent rise in cotton prices, cotton acreage is expected to decrease in 2009, plus reductions in peanut and corn plantings in the upper Southeast point to an increase in soybean acreage for 2009.

North Carolina, with over 1.2 million acres expected in 2008, is the largest soybean producing state in the Southeast. The Tar Heel State has been hit hard by cotton reductions the past few years and expects better than a 30 percent drop in peanut acreage in 2009.

In a combined three-county test in northeast North Carolina, Perquimans County Extension Leader Lewis Smith says soybean variety tests indicate growers have some excellent soybean variety choices for 2009.

In 2008, Pioneer 95Y70, Pioneer 95Y41, Stine 5020-4, Pioneer 95Y20, Pioneer 95Y40 and Southern States RT 5930N all produced better than 40 bushels per acre in the tri-county tests.

The tri-county tests were a part of statewide testing, which provides an even more optimistic outlook for soybean growers in 2009.

Statewide soybean variety testing provided really good news for growers hoping to reduce costs by growing conventional beans, thus avoiding escalating technology fees.

In the statewide tests, conventionally planted soybeans were planted between May 23 and June 4 and harvested between Oct. 27 and Nov. 19.

Late-planted soybean varieties were planted June 23-25 and harvested Nov. 19-24.

All test plots were drilled in 7.5 inch row spacings. Fertilizer was applied as per soil test recommendations.

• Conventional Group V soybean varieties

Though several commercially available conventional soybean varieties are available for growers, the three top yielding varieties in this group were experimental soybean breeding lines. These include NO2-417, NO2-7002 and NCC02-20578.

Osage, Jake, USG 7553nRS, Fowler and Stoddard, among the commercially available conventional soybean varieties available, all topped 50 bushels per acre in the North Carolina tests.

• Conventional Group VI soybean varieties

NC Roy, with nearly 61 bushels per acre was the top yielding soybean variety in this category. However, experimental variety NO1-216 finished a close second. Researchers caution that soybean plants in this variety were an inch or more taller than plants in the popular commercial variety and had more lodging problems than NC Roy.

Other commercially available top yielding soybean varieties in this category include: NC Pujals, NC Ernie, and USG620N, each topping 50 bushels per acre in statewide testing.

• Conventional Group VII and Group VIII soybean varieties

The trend of experimental soybean variety breeding lines dominating statewide yields continued with Maturity Groups VII and VIII. Seven of the top 10 varieties, including the top yielding variety, NO5-7432, with 58.4 bushels per acre, were experimentals.

NC Raleigh was the top yielding commercially available variety, with 55.3 bushels per acre. N8001 and N7002 were the only other commercially available varieties among the top 10 yielders in this category.

• Roundup Ready Group IV soybean varieties

Asgrow AG4907 and Southern States SSRT4996N both produced 55 bushels per acre and 10 other soybean varieties in the test topped 50 bushels per acre.

Among the top yielding Group IV Roundup Ready soybean varieties in the test were:

DynaGro 36Y48, USG 74F96 and 74A91, Progeny 4606RR, Northrup King S46-U6, and Pioneer 94Y90.

• Roundup Ready Group V Soybean varieties (early maturing)

Terral TV55R15 and an experimental variety from Trisoy (5408RR) tied among the top yielding soybean varieties in this category, with 55.9 bushels per acre. Researchers note that this experimental line grew shorter and with fewer lodging problems than the popular Terral variety.

The average yield in this maturity group of Roundup Ready soybean varieties was 50 bushels per acre. Southern States, Trisoy, USG, DynaGro, Deltapine and Schillinger all had varieties topping 50 bushels per acre in this category.

• Roundup Ready Group V soybean varieties (lae maturing)

With up to 50 percent of the soybeans in the Upper Southeast planted behind grain crops, or delayed due to labor restrictions and planting other crops, the late planted Maturity Group V beans may be the most popular varieties for the 2009 season. If so, growers should have no problem finding a high performance soybean variety, as 18 varieties in the North Carolina tests topped 50 bushels per acre.

Stine 6202-4 and two Southern States varieties SSRT5760N and SSRT5930N were the top yielding varieties among the Maturity Group V late-planted soybeans. Only one experimental line, NCC04-8610R, was among the top 20 yielding lines in this category.

• Roundup Ready Group VI soybean varieties

Southern States SSRT6988N and DynaGro V61N9RR were top producing soybean varieties in this group, with nearly 55 bushels per acre. Only one experimental variety, Progeny 6208RR made it to the top 10 producing varieties in this category.

• Roundup Ready Group VII and Group VIII soybean varieties

DynaGro V76N9RR was by far the top yielding variety in this maturity group, producing nearly 60 bushels per acre. The DynaGro variety produced the tallest plants in this group (average 42 inches) and had among the highest lodging scores, indicating this variety may be more prone to wind damage.

Northrup King NK S80-P2 Asgrow AG 7502 and Deltapine DP7330RR all produced better than 50 bushels per acre in the statewide testing. No experimental lines were among the top 10 highest yielding varieties.

e-mail: rroberson@farmpress.com