Shilpi Chawla, University of Illinois, National Soybean Research Center, Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana;
Charles R. Bowen, USDA-ARS, National Soybean Research Center, Urbana;
Tara L. Slaminko, University of Illinois, National Soybean Research Center, Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana;
Houston A. Hobbs, University of Illinois, Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana; and
Glen L. Hartman, USDA-ARS and University of Illinois, National Soybean Research Center, Department of Crop Sciences, Urbana
The soybean crop is one of the most important crops worldwide, as the seeds are used for both protein meal and vegetable oil. Soybean acreage covers an estimated 6% of the arable land in the world, and since the 1970s, soybean has had the highest percent increase of hectares in production compared to any other major crop. As demand for soybean continues to rise, the production area and worldwide trade are likely to increase. Biotic constraints, such as pathogens, pests, and weeds, can be detrimental to soybean production, causing significant negative impacts to yield. To successfully reduce losses caused by pathogens and pests, various practices such as cultural and seed sanitation techniques, pesticide applications, and deployment of resistance are used. For many years, public institutions have conducted regional yield trials on both private and public sector soybean cultivars. In Illinois, the University of Illinois Variety Testing Program created a public database for growers. Prompted in part by disease reports on cultivars entered into the Variety Testing Program, the Illinois Soybean Association began providing funds in 1998 to obtain additional information from regional trials to benefit growers in the state. The researchers in the Soybean Variety Testing Program conduct replicated field trials and evaluate these plots for agronomic characteristics such as height, lodging, maturity, and yield. In addition to standard yield trial data, protein and oil content are analyzed.