While record rainfall last year meant little or no irrigation for soybean fields and good yield potential, excessive wet conditions during part of September and October damaged much of the Group 4 soybeans ready for harvest in the east-central and southeast part of the state. Group 5 and later-planted fields fared better, maturing after the October rains diminished.

Seed companies in the Mid-South scrambled for a time last fall and a lot of early-harvested seed beans in the region had to be heavily cleaned or discarded, depending on the field. In general, the heaviest damage was to fields that were ready to harvest in early September before rains prevented harvest for up to six weeks. Weathering and mold took their toll on the seed also.

During last September and October, there was a lot of concern about seed quality for planting the 2010 crop. However, as samples flowed into the Arkansas State Plant Board for testing, it became clear that, overall, seed quality appeared to be much better than was feared.

According to data supplied by Mary Smith and Aaron Palmer (both of the Arkansas State Plant Board Seed Division), as of Feb. 4, soybean seed quality for the state was in good shape.

Most companies had seed production fields scattered over large areas, allowing them to pick the best quality for 2010. Many have also moved Group 4 seed production farther north over the years, assuring improved quality for these type beans. Seed growers also tended to use fungicides at R5 in 2009, and this helped a lot, given the wet weather.

Sample results from northeast Arkansas and reports from southeast Missouri up into Illinois and Indiana indicated high seed quality from these regions, and a lot of seed sold in Arkansas is grown in these areas each year.

While potential seed quality for 2010 appears to be good, some concern remains because of the wet fall. Seed labs have noted more “mold” on seed in germ tests, and many worry this might cause problems when planting in warm, moist soil conditions. Many seed personnel are therefore recommending more fungicide seed treatment of soybean seed for 2010 as a precaution.

In addition, there remains some concern about the vigor of seed intended for planting in June or July in Arkansas. In other words, germ and accelerated aging tests are high for now but will the quality hold up in storage, especially for six, or more, months? Most seed company personnel think so, but are also monitoring seed in storage more frequently than in the past.

Overall, seed companies indicate that there will be plenty of good quality soybean seed to plant the 2010 crop in Arkansas and the United States. However, seed of certain varieties may be short. So, if growers have a favorite variety, it would be wise to book seed now.

Based on recent research and surveys funded by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, vigor — as measured by the accelerated aging test — appears to provide valuable information, especially for June, or later, planted beans in Arkansas. While accelerated aging values are not required on soybean seed sold in the United States, they can be obtained by testing your own purchased seed prior to planting — or by asking for accelerated aging information on specific seed lots from company representatives or dealers.

Because seed vigor tends to decline in storage more than germ, it is important to obtain the date of the accelerated aging test for the lot, since a recent test would likely provide the most useful information.

Getting a stand from June-planted beans is a special challenge under Arkansas conditions. Given the expense of soybean seed, it is a small investment to find out the quality of seed before planting into difficult conditions. Information pays and seed quality information can provide big dividends by avoiding the lost time and increased expense of replanting, or lower yields from a poor stand.

(Acknowledgments: The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board; Debby Monfort, Julie Robinson and Sandy Goeke for technical support; Jeremy Ross, Don Dombek, Pengyin Chen, Larry Purcell, Mary Smith, Aaron Palmer, and cooperating seed company personnel.)