Foundation seed of a new Group 4 soybean variety will be grown in 2010 for release to seed growers who will have registered seed to sell in 2012.

The high-yielding, yet-to-be-named variety has a tall, upright, indeterminate growth habit and tawny colored seed pods, said Pengyin Chen, director of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture’s soybean breeding program. The program is supported by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board.

The new Group 4 variety provides an early-maturing option for growers who are increasing plantings of conventional (non-transgenic) soybeans.

Other conventional varieties from the Arkansas breeding program are “Osage,” which had the highest yield among conventional varieties in 2008 performance tests in Arkansas and Tennessee and tied for highest in Mississippi. The “Ozark” and “UA 4805” varieties also perform well under Arkansas growing conditions, Chen said.

Chen and Jeremy Ross, the division’s Extension soybean specialist, said they’ve had more calls than in previous years about conventional varieties.

The division produces genetically pure foundation seed of conventional varieties for sale to seed companies and dealers, who then grow registered and certified seed for sale to farmers.

Orders have increased over the past two years for foundation seed of conventional soybean varieties from the foundation seed program at the division’s Rice Research and Extension Center near Stuttgart.

The vast majority of soybeans planted will still be transgenic herbicide-resistant varieties, but demand for conventional varieties may be higher due to three factors.

One factor is lower cost seed compared to transgenic varieties and the right to save seed from conventional varieties developed in public breeding programs conducted by universities and the USDA, said Chen. Farmers must buy new seed each year of transgenic varieties. With public conventional varieties, farmers can save seed from the first year’s crop to plant the next year. After two crops, though, they should buy new seed to avoid genetic contamination or loss of seed vigor.

A second factor is an increase in Roundup-resistant weeds, which means some farmers need additional herbicides with Roundup Ready varieties, Ross said. Weed populations can develop resistance when exposed to the same herbicide over a period of years.

A third incentive for planting conventional soybeans is a premium of up to $1 per bushel paid by some buyers who produce non-transgenic soy products.

“There will always be a niche for conventional soybeans,” Ross said.

The results of soybean variety performance trials at Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station locations are available online at http://www.arkansasvarietytesting.com.