Trials help producers find soybean varieties that mature earlier

Soybeans aren’t something new for Texas producers, but one Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert is trying to develop a production system that will help combat drought and include varieties that mature earlier.

Key Points

Texas AgriLife Extension seeks earlier-maturing soybeans.

Beans are sought that bloom in more favorable conditions.

Indeterminate varieties are better suited to Texas weather.


Texas always has been the westernmost state growing soybeans, with about 200,000 to 250,000 acres planted annually. Recently, though, drought conditions caused a drop in acreage, according to Travis Miller, associate department head and AgriLife Extension program leader in the Texas A&M University soil and crop sciences department, College Station.

Soybeans are a riskier crop than sorghum or wheat, he says. But having more than $14-per-bushel prices means there’s good money in beans “if you can make a crop.”

2 crop types

Miller is participating in the Mid-South Consortium trials being grown in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas under the direction of Larry Purcell with the University of Arkansas.

Soybeans can be a determinant or indeterminate crop, says Miller. Indeterminate means the crop can put on blooms and keep growing at the same time.

Determinant, or late-maturing soybeans, must reach a certain photoperiod, or day length, before they bloom.

“We are looking for varieties that can be early planted and which the bloom date coincides with more favorable growing conditions,” Miller says.

College Station is the southernmost trial. This trial includes eight varieties mixed between determinant and indeterminate varieties, with each planted on four different dates. The earliest planted was on March 26, and the latest planted was early June.

“We’re looking at the number of nodes per plant, plant height, bloom date — all factors that are affected by photoperiod and growing conditions,” Miller says.

He says they would like to find plants that are less photoperiod-sensitive to plant in regions with available sunshine and moisture.

Much faster beans

Determinant soybeans generally grow from May to September, or about 160 days, while the indeterminate varieties can be planted as early as March and harvested in late July or early August, or at less than 140 days, Miller says.

The indeterminate plants will grow and set pods at the same time, allowing more height and more nodes, “and that’s what pays,” he says.

“It also fits our weather patterns better,” Miller notes. “We know we get rain in April and May, and that’s the ideal time to set pods, so we would be able to use the weather patterns if we find indeterminate varieties for this region.”

Cut down on risk

“The overall goal is to minimize the risk and better utilize the weather and resources that we have,” Miller says.

Texas soybeans are primarily grown in the upper Gulf Coast, south of Houston and near Beaumont, northeast Texas along the Red River, and a smattering of irrigated acres on the High Plains, Miller says.

Once completed, the data on Miller’s 2012 trials, as well as past trials, can be found at varietytesting.tamu.edu.

Ledbetter is with Texas A&M Agriculture Communications, Amarillo.

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EARLIER IS BETTER: Very early-planted indeterminate soybeans, on the right, work best in Texas, according to Travis Miller, Texas AgriLife Extension Service program leader, in College Station. Plants on the left were taller with later planting dates, but yields were not better.

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bean HARVEST comes early: In a previous field trial, the early-planted indeterminate soybeans were ready to harvest much earlier in the season than later-planted beans. Texas AgriLife Research photos by Kathleen Phillips

This article published in the July, 2012 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.