Soybean pods near harvest

URBANA, Ill. — As always, the University of Illinois Soybean Variety Testing program will provide valuable information for farmers to make seed decisions. But this year the challenging weather conditions forced researchers to eliminate results from some sites where stands were too weak to produce credible results.

At the Elkville plots in the deep southwestern part of Illinois in Jackson County, it was too dry in July and August when the crop was developing. So, in this notably wet year, the variety trials at this site could not be used, said Darin Joos, University of Illinois senior research specialist, who leads the corn and soybean variety trials and helps with other crops.

“It was a bad year — too wet and too dry,” he said.

Too much rain ruined soybean trials at another site. Immediately after soybeans were planted at the St. Peter site in Fayette County in south central Illinois, heavy rainfall prevented the crop from emerging, Joos said.

And challenging conditions continued, preventing the team from replanting the soybeans there, he said.

In contrast, the St. Peter site had some of the highest corn yields. The rains came at the right time for corn, Joos said.

This has been a challenging year for the University of Illinois Variety Testing program, which began in 1934. Despite the weather, researchers managed to complete most of the crop performance tests to provide farmers, Extension staff and private seed companies with agronomic information on soybean varieties and other major Illinois field crops.

Soybean trial work was done in five regions this year:

  • Northern: Erie, Mt. Morris, DeKalb;
  • Mid-north: Monmouth, Goodfield, Dwight;
  • Central: Perry, New Berlin, Urbana;
  • Southern: Belleville and St. Peter;
  • Deep South: Elkville and Harrisburg.

Soybeans were planted a month — or in some cases, two months — later this year than usual, said Nathan Kleczewski, University of Illinois crop scientist.

“In some places, they were planted the same time as double-crop soybeans planted behind wheat,” Kleczewski said.

However, there were some excellent yield results, Joos said. Soybeans at the Belleville site in St. Clair County in southwestern Illinois had some of the best yields at 73 bu./acre. At the New Berlin site, in Sangamon County, a field averaged 75 bu./acre.

Overall, the soybean yields were pretty consistent with yields between 60 and 70 bu./acre, Joos said.

The other thing most soybeans had in common this year is that they were about 10 inches shorter than last year.

“They were really nice to harvest and there was no lodging,” Joos said of the benefits of the shorter beans.

However, the shorter beans did yield about 5 to 10 bushels per acre less than last year. Belleville beans can average 80 bu./acre in a good year.

Joos said the yields on the trials are typically a little elevated to what an average farmer sees. While the university’s 2019 test fields were averaging 60 to 70 bu./acre, farmers in the same region were getting 50 to 60 bu./acre. Part of that can be attributed to the good soil and lack of low spots in most of the fields chosen for variety trials, he said.

Results are available in this week’s paper and at

Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.