The Aggies and Razorbacks have more in common than just membership in the SEC: both Texas and Arkansas have been hit hard by drought this year, and the two universities have joined forces to make a difference. Researchers at Texas A&M University and the University of Arkansas are participating in the Mid-South Soybean Consortium trials, an effort to develop a soybean production system that will help combat the drought and includes varieties that mature earlier.
Travis Miller, associate department head and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension program leader in the Texas A&M Soil and Crop Sciences Department, is participating in the trials in cooperation with Larry Purcell with the University of Arkansas.
Miller said recent drought conditions have caused a drop in the 200,000-250,000 acres of soybeans that are normally planted in Texas each year.
Soybeans are a riskier crop than sorghum or wheat, he said. They can be a determinant or indeterminate crop. Indeterminate means the crop can put on blooms and continue to grow 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 noted.
In addition to Texas and Arkansas, trial soybean crops have been planted in Oklahoma and Louisiana. College Station is the southernmost trial, according to Miller, and included eight varieties mixed between determinant and indeterminate, with each planted on four different dates. The earliest planted was on March 26 and the latest was planted early in 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 explained.
He said they would like to find plants that are less photoperiod sensitive to plant in regions with available sunshine and moisture.
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 less than 140 days, Miller said.
The indeterminate plants will grow and set pods at the same time, allowing more height and more nodes, “and that’s what pays,” he emphasized. “It also fits our weather patterns better. 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 good indeterminate varieties for this region.”
He said the overall goal is to minimize the risk and better utilize the weather and resources that we have.
“The last harvest will take place in October, so in November we’ll have results,” noted Miller.
Texas soybeans are primarily grown in the upper Gulf Coast, south of Houston and around Beaumont, northeast Texas along the Red River and a smattering of irrigated acres on the High Plains, Miller explained.
Once completed, the data on Miller’s 2012 trials, as well as past trials, can be found at varietytesting.tamu.edu.
Media Contacts: Lesley Henton, News & Information Services at Texas A&M University; (979) 845-5591; email@example.com; and Kay Ledbetter (original writer), Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center – Amarillo; (806) 677-5608; firstname.lastname@example.org