Current Research Projects

Protecting Yield & Profitability

Soybean Dry-land Maximum Yield

Jim Dunphy & Ron Heiniger

Soybean profits are a function of yield, price, and cost of production. Growers are limited on how much influence they can have on price and most growers have already done most of what they can do to limit the cost of production. That means yield is the one component of profit that has the greatest potential for growers to alter. On-farm tests will be established in several counties that include a plot that comes close to maximizing yield as possible. The maximum yield plot will have all treatments and then other plots will be the subtraction of one treatment to determine how much yield is lowered if that treatment is not used. Results will help producers determine what production components are appropriate to maximize soybean yields in a dry-land environment and help them improve farm-level profitability.

What a Shovel Can Tell Us About Yields

Randy Wells & Rich Zobel

The development of soybean root systems can provide growers with insights as to the sustainability of their crop, and give an indication of potential yield. A routine assessment of root system development (using only a shovel) can alert the grower to problems (before they are visible in the shoot) that can be corrected before significant losses in yield. Funding is requested for part-time help to carry out this work and for supplies. A protocol and pamphlet that growers can use to assess the development of their growing soybean crop root systems will be developed.

Foliar Potential Yield Enhancements

Jim Dunphy & Ron Heiniger

There are several foliar products on the market for which there is little or no reliable local data on the efficacy of these products. Tests will be conducted to evaluate these products at on-farm sites across NC. Regardless of the results, producers stand to gain knowledge by knowing what yield changes, if any, are produced by which products, and at what cost.

Non-Foliar Potential Yield Enhancements

Jim Dunphy & Ron Heiniger

There are several non-foliar products on the market for which there is little or no reliable local data on the efficacy of these products. Tests will be conducted to evaluate these products at on-farm sites across NC. Regardless of the results, producers stand to gain knowledge by knowing what yield changes, if any, are produced by which products, and at what cost.

County Based Mini-Proposals

Jim Dunphy & Various Agents

While Extension personnel in NC have learned a great deal about managing soybeans over the last few years through check-off supported projects, many of our farmers are not aware of all that has been learned. Mini-projects will be carried out by county Extension agents to showcase results of soybean check-off funded projects. These projects will enhance the visibility of results of NCSPA funded research and help educate growers at the local level.

Increasing Yields and Profitability for Mid-Atlantic Double-Crop Soybean

David Holshouser – Virginia Tech

The Mid-Atlantic region of the US (DE, MD, NJ, NC, PA, VA) planted 3.8 million acres of soybean in 2015 with over half of this double-cropped after wheat. Double-crop wheat/soybean systems lead to greater total annual production and are usually more profitable than single-crop systems due to more efficient use of land, equipment, labor, and fertilizer. Soybean yields in these systems are reduced 10 to 30% compared to a full-season system, however. This is largely due to less time to accumulate sufficient leaf area for maximum yield. To help improve the profitability of the double-crop system, groups from each of these states are working together to 1) create a database of knowledge, research, and Extension recommendations, 2) coordinate a Mid-Atlantic on-farm research structure to discover and validate research practices, and 3) research practices that lead to earlier small-grain harvest without adverse effects on yields. Information learned from this project will be summarized in a Double-Crop Best Management Practices publication and help produces increase the yield and profitability of their double-crop system.

Varietal Response to Planting Date

Fowler Crop Consulting, Impact Agronomics, Mclawhorn Crop Services, Protech Advisory Services and Tidewater Agronomics

A wide range of planting dates and varieties are used by North Carolina soybean farmers. Most data shows that earlier planting dates result in higher yields, but how early should growers be planting and what maturity groups should they use. The goal of this project is to investigate the interaction between planting date and maturity group.

Desiccant Application Timing & Yield Effect

Fowler Crop Consulting, Impact Agronomics, Mclawhorn Crop Services, Protech Advisory Services and Tidewater Agronomics

Getting soybeans out of the field as quickly as possible helps preserve seed quality. Harvest aids can be used to help desiccate soybeans so combines can get in the field quicker but do these chemicals actually speed up harvest time. The goals of this project is to investigate how various harvest aids and application times affect the yield and quality of soybeans.

Variety Development & Testing

Double-Crop Soybean Varieties for North Carolina

Tommy Carter

Double-cropped soybeans account for 50 to 60% of NC’s soybean production. Double-cropped soybeans are usually planted between June 10 and July 4 and typically suffer 10-20% yield loss, as compared to full season (May planted) beans. This yield loss is usually the result of a shorter growing season and insufficient leaf area for the crop to achieve maximum yield. To combat this, growers have adapted narrower row spacing and plant later maturing varieties, which helps close canopies faster and should increase yields. However, even with these changes, double crop yields are typically lower than full-season beans. New breeding lines with fast canopy closing ability will be evaluated under double cropping conditions to assess yield advantage. The impact of seed size on canopy growth under double cropped conditions will also be evaluated, and ultimately a breeding program will be initiated to develop new soybean varieties specifically for double cropping in NC. Funding will be used for a Master’s student to complete this work. The new information and genetic materials identified from this research will be important guideposts for the initiation of a double crop breeding program in NC.

Flood-Tolerant Soybean Varieties for North Carolina

Tommy Carter

The last few growing seasons have been exceptionally wet for much of NC and excess rain can curtail crop performance. Flooding per se is not common in NC, but we do suffer from excess water in the form of wet roots, where oxygen supply is reduced and toxic respired CO2 builds up in the soil. Chronic wet roots can cause slow growth, poor leaf color, and spindly plants, often limiting yield. Breeders in the Mississippi Delta have been screening for flood tolerance for many years and some of those varieties did well in NC in 2013. These Mississippi Delta lines will be evaluated in NC under normal and chronically wet conditions. Funding will be used for a Master’s student to carry out this work. Results from this work will be used to initiate a breeding program to select new soybean types that perform well under flooding conditions in NC.

Variety Demonstrations

Jim Dunphy

Soybean variety selection can be overwhelming for growers. Seeing potential varieties side by side in a local environment can help growers make decisions about which varieties to use. Funding will provide county Extension personnel support for local variety demonstrations. Seed from 20 to 30 of the most promising soybean varieties (conventional, RR, LL) will be made available to Extension agents for them to plant at an on-farm site. This will allow growers in that area to evaluate promising varieties. These sites can be used in a county Extension field day to discuss the varieties.

Evaluating Seed Composition Stability Under Environmental Stress

Anna Locke

Although seed composition is largely determined by plant genetics, environmental factors can also play a significant role. Soybean end users are increasingly seeking specific seed compositions, particularly high protein and high oleic.  This means growers are likely to choose varieties with final seed composition in mind in the future. To ensure profitability, growers need to be able to depend on high-quality seed composition, regardless of growing season weather. Funding will be used to evaluate the dependability of both high protein and high oleic varieties under temperature and drought stress. Information provided by this project will be useful to assist growers’ seed selection decisions and breeders’ continuing germplasm development.

Continuation of Off-Season Winter Nursery in Puerto Rico for Soybean Breeding

Tommy Carter

The winter nursery in Puerto Rico has been used by the USDA/NCSU breeding program to advance breeding lines through one or two generations of inbreeding in the off-season for over 30 years. This speeds up the total time required to generate a new cultivar by 2 to 3 years. Funding is for managing and growing plants at the USDA winter nursery for breeding program material. Use of the winter nursery for the USDA breeding program helps permit timely release of new varieties and germplasm.

Evaluation of Commercial Soybean Varieties for Drought Resistance

Tom Rufty & Tommy Carter

The chief barriers to sustainable soybean production are summer drought/ heat and it is expected future summer heat waves and drought cycles will become more extreme in future years. To contend with these problems, growers must be ready to protect their crop and stress-tolerant varieties are the most economical way to do so. While most US soybean varieties are heat and drought sensitive, there are some drought resistant breeding materials that have been developed by the USDA. To be useful to growers, these materials need to be integrated with the private sector materials. Approximately 100 commercial varieties will be evaluated for the 2nd year (1st year of funding from USB) under drought conditions at the Sandhills Research station. Funding will be used to support graduate students who will be carrying out these evaluations. Results from this work will be the basis for developing interactions with commercial breeders to transfer drought resistant traits to commercial varieties.

Soil Health

Soil Health and Conservation Practices: Testing with Local, Long-term Information

Deanna Osmond, Josh Hietman, Mike Wagger, Carl Crozier, & David Hardy

Soil health is becoming an important part of crop production. The goal for improving soil health is to increase soil organic matter, thereby increasing yields due to better soil physical properties and improved nutrient cycling. Because any increases in organic matter and improvement to soil physical properties is a long-term process, it is important to analyze different tillage and cropping systems throughout the state to determine if soil properties are actually changed such that soybean yields are increased. Changes in soil physical and chemical properties related to long-term differences in tillage and cropping systems in three regions of NC will be evaluated. Soil physical properties and soil test data will be compared to soil health testing to determine whether soil health tests provide viable management guides for local soils. Water quality in years when corn is produced will be compared to years when soybeans are produced to determine the effects of management versus soil properties on water quality. Funding will be used for a PhD student to carry out this work. All information collected will be condensed into formats growers can use.

Introducing Cover Crops into Corn-Soybean Rotations to Improve Soil Properties and Yield

Josh Heitman, Deanna Osmond, & Mike Wagger

Cover crops may be beneficial in increasing soil health by increasing organic matter and nutrient cycling by biological processes. Regional variation in soil properties and local climates may affect the impacts of using cover crops. The benefit of introducing cover crops into a long-term corn-soybean rotation will be evaluated on a Casville sandy loam under 9 different tillage treatments. Soil properties and crop yields will be compared. Results should lead to recommendations for growers on cover crop use in a corn-soybean rotation.

Validation of Soil Test Potassium Recommendations

David Hardy, Kristin Hicks, & Carl Croizer  – NCDA

Potassium (K) deficiency is the most prominent nutrient deficiency in plant tissue samples analyzed by NCDA and 40% of soil samples submitted by the NCDA are medium to very low for K (K-1 = 0-50). If recommendations are followed, K fertilizer costs can be a significant part of growers’ annual operating expenses (19%). However, if under-applied and K is limiting, seed yields are decreased from 5-20%. Two decades have passed since soybean K needs were researched in NC. Since this time, yield potential is greater and practices have changed. There is a need to evaluate current soil test K recommendations and plant tissue testing sufficiency ranges to assure NC growers are receiving the best information for economic production and competitive yields. Sites of varying K levels will be selected under conventional and no-till production systems to evaluate applications of muriate of potash (MOP) ranging from 0 to 200 lbs per acre. Tissue sampling will also be done at V5 and later to help determine optimized rates of K for NC. Results from this project will be used to update the NCDA soil and plant tissue recommendations and help growers optimize their fertilizer applications.

Weed Management

Tolerance of Non-Dicamba-Tolerant Soybeans to Dicamba Applications

Wes Everman

Resistant weed species continue to plague NC soybean producers and are one of the primary concerns facing farmers in the foreseeable future. As new herbicide tolerant soybean technologies are approved, one of the biggest concerns is off target movement and injury in neighboring crops. A greenhouse screen will be used to evaluate varietal sensitivity to dicamba, and a subset of these varieties will be evaluated in the field to determine varietal response to various rates and/or timings of dicamba. Early and late planted tests will be evaluated in the field to determine if time of year impacts growth and yield of non-dicamba tolerant soybeans treated with a “drift rate” of dicamba. Funding will be used for a Master’s student to carry out this work. Information gained from this work will help growers make educated decisions to prevent off-target injury in soybean.

Minimizing Carryover Herbicide Damage to North Carolina Soybean Production

Travis Gannon, Anna Locke, & Wes Everman

Herbicide carryover is the unintended persistence of an herbicide in the soil from one crop to the next and can occur in double-cropped or full-season system where soybeans follow a cereal such as wheat or corn. The level of herbicide carryover and crop responses are governed by soil and environmental properties as well as plant genetics. While there have been studies demonstrating herbicide carryover in other regions of the US, there is a dearth of information available for the Southeast, in particular, for the highly variable soils in NC. The goal of this project is to generate information on herbicide carryover in soybeans to address this knowledge gap. This includes 1) determining the rate at which common broadleaf herbicides (ALS, HPPD, & PSII) break down in various soil types across NC, 2) determining the residual herbicide levels at which the growth of soybean plants are affected by evaluation in a greenhouse setting, and 3) determining if different varieties are affected by these residual herbicides differently. Funding will be used to support a graduate student who will be conducting this work. Results of this work will be provided to growers to help them make decisions about herbicide selection and application.

Disease Management

Stem Canker Resistance

Jim Dunphy & Lindsey Thiessen

Southern stem canker is a relatively new soybean disease in North Carolina. In 2015, the disease severely affected whole fields on two farms. A number of varieties will be grown on these two farms to evaluate claims of stem canker resistance. In addition, disease symptoms will be observed to see if they are uniform across varieties and yield will be measured to get an idea of yield loss due to the disease. If this disease should become more widespread in our state, producers can use this information to confirm if a specific variety is resistant.

Fungicide Resistance of Cercospora sojina in North Carolin Soybean Fields

Lindsey Thiessen

Frogeye leaf spot (FLS) is a fungus caused by Cercospora sojina that can affect the leaves, seed, pods, and stems of soybeans. It is estimated in 2014 FLS reduced yields in NC by 560,000 bushels (approximately 1%) and in susceptible cultivars yields may be reduced by as much as 30%. The best control is achieved with fungicide mixes containing strobilurins (Qol’s – group 11) and triazoles/imidiazoles (DMI’s – group 3). Resistance to strobilurin fungicides has been confirmed in several states, including NC, yet the extent of fungicide-resistant populations of C. sojina has not assessed in our state. Establishing relationships between region and fungicide resistance would allow for targeted management strategies and help limit control failures. This will be carried out by collecting samples from fields across various regions of the state naturally infested with C. sojina. C. sojina colonies from these leaves will be assessed to determine if fungicide resistance is present for group 11, group 3, and group 1 fungicides. The EC50 values (value whereby 50% of the isolates were inhibited) for each fungicide will also be determined. Funding will be used to support a technician to carry out this work during year 1 and to support a Master’s student during year 2 and 3. Results from this work will be used to generate recommendations on fungicide selection practices for FLS management and to generate a map of regional fungicide resistant C. sojina incidence over 3 years.

Chemical Management of Nematode Damages and Populations

Lindsey Thiessen

Both soybean cyst nematode (SCN) and root-knot nematode (RKN) cause damages to NC soybeans. In 2015 it was estimated that 2 million bushels (about 3%) were lost to these two pests. Both RKN and SCN are capable of surviving in the soil for long periods of time which makes control difficult. Four different species of RKN and 16 different races of SNC affect soybeans, causing resistant variety selection and crop rotations with non-host crops challenging. Recently, several seed treatments for nematode control have been made available to producers but limited information is available to NC growers on the efficacy of these products. Three treatments will be evaluated – fluopyram, Pasteuria nishizawae, and Bacillus firmus – as both a seed treatment and a soil drench treatment. This work will be carried out in three different fields (one in each region) naturally infested with damaging nematode populations. Nematode populations will be assessed before and after treatments are applied. Plant health and weather will also be tracked. Results from these evaluations will be used to update nematode management recommendations and ultimately may provide growers with another tool for combating nematodes.

Soybean Problem Diagnosis Support for Cooperative Extension Agents

Lindsey Thiessen

Problem diagnosis is an important tool that cooperative extension agents use in advising producers to select appropriate corrective management approaches. The NCDA plant tissue lab and the NCSU Plant Disease & Insect Clinic are fee-based services. Funding will provide county extension agents with 100 plant tissue samples at the NCDA and 45 plant insect and disease clinic samples at the PDIC.

Insect Management

Improving and Reducing Costs of Control for Caterpillar Pests in Soybean

Dominic Reisig

Caterpillar pests caused an estimated 43.7-million-dollar loss in NC in 2014. To begin to reduce this loss we need to understand where the pests are present (so we can minimize unnecessary sprays) and to identify where expensive caterpillar insecticides are needed. Two caterpillars of importance in NC soybeans are corn earworms and soybean loopers.

Corn earworm has been trending toward pyrethroid resistance for a number of years. Corn earworm pyrethroid resistance has been tracked via a vial bioassay but it is imperative to see if this matches pyrethroid failures in the field. This will be carried out by correlating vial bioassay results with documented pyrethroid failures at 50 sites across NC. These 50 sites will also be assessed for a number of factors to determine if pyrethroid resistance in corn earworm is associated with cropping patterns in the surrounding landscape.

Soybean looper is a migratory species in North Carolina. Recent studies have indicated soybean looper may be developing resistance to many insecticide classes (specifically methoxyfenozide and diamides) and this resistance is being preselected in locations other than NC (before the species moves into the state). To combat this problem it will be important to know where the loopers are coming from and when they arrive (for long-term control) and exactly what type of insecticide resistance they carry each year (for short-term control). To begin answering these questions, suspected spray failures of soybean looper will be identified during 2017 and larvae collected from these fields bioassayed for resistance. Also, moths will be trapped and genotyped to see if populations from different locations differ genetically.

Results from both projects will provide information to help growers make insecticide choices during 2018 and help steer future research directions.

Moisture Management

Development and Testing of Soybean Management Protocols for a new SMART Water Management System for Increased Soybean Yield and Quality while Minimizing Water Use and Production Cost

George Chescheir, Mohamed Youssef, Tim Appleboom, Chad Poole, Rod Gurganus, & David Williams

Water management is essential to agriculture production. In NC’s coastal plain agricultural drainage is essential for crop production on 40% of the land. Drainage improves trafficability for timely planting and harvesting and removes excess water from the plant root zone, eliminating or reducing excess water stress and improving crop yield. A drainage system that has the ability to make real-time changes to the water table based on infield feedback and that is coupled with surface and subsurface irrigation systems would be valuable to a grower and could increase yields. A comprehensive water table control protocol for soybeans will be developed. Information learned from this project should help growers with controlled drainage systems reduce irrigation and management expenses, increase soybean yields, and decrease nutrient runoff.