It's tempting to order seed early - even prior to harvest - to take advantage of price discounts. But don't make your seed buying decisions too early. "Wait until replicated yield data is available to give you the information about this year's performance," advises Palle Pedersen, soybean Extension agronomist at Iowa State University.
Selecting a soybean variety or corn hybrid without any data from the 2006 growing season is like playing roulette. You don't have a good idea what the outcome will be. "We realize you can get price discounts if you order seed early," he says. "But most of the time the dollar savings from the discount only amounts to 1 or 2 bushels per acre."
You can often gain more by planting a better yielding variety. "Wait and evaluate the data and choose varieties that are consistently high yielding and have the disease resistance traits needed for your fields," advises Pedersen.
Patience pays when buying seed
If you don't plant the right varieties, the game is over before you start. Selecting the right varieties and planting them at the proper time is the key to reach your fields' yield potential.
What would Pedersen focus on in selecting bean varieties to plant in 2007? "In 2006 we saw soybean cyst nematode and pressure from sudden death syndrome in a number of fields. SCN and SDS can cause significant yield loss. However, they can be managed by variety selection," he points out.
Jim Rouse, project leader for ISU's Corn and Soybean Variety Testing Program, has the numbers to show why you should wait to look at 2006 yield data before ordering seed. Potential losses from selecting the wrong corn hybrid or bean variety will more than offset any discounts farmers will get from early seed orders, he notes.
Quickest way to boost your yield
The quickest way to boost your corn and soybean yield is to make better seed selection decisions, say Pedersen and Rouse.
"Looking at the district averages last year in our soybean tests, we saw a yield range of 12 to 24 bushels per acre, with an average of 15.5 bushels," says Rouse. "That means the difference between the lowest and highest yielding varieties was never less than12 bushels, and was as high as 24 bushels."
If you're buying soybean seed without this type of yield information available, you could easily be giving up 15 bushels per acre. And what's the early pay discount? It varies but typically you can offset it by selecting a variety that will yield just one or two extra bushels per acre.
"In district averages for our corn tests in 2005, we saw ranges of 30 to 53 bushels between the lowest and highest yielding hybrids in a test, with an average difference of 46 bushels per acre," says Rouse. "That's a huge difference in yield potential. I don't know how anyone can expect to make informed hybrid or variety selection decisions without examining comparative yield data first."