Growth, yield, and yield component changes among old and new soybean cultivars

Soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] yield has increased at a rate of 25 to 30 kg ha–1 yr–1 due in part to improved genetic gain, and has been further advanced by the addition of resistance to soybean cyst nematode (Heterodera glycines Ichinohe; SCN) in new cultivars. The objective was to determine specific growth changes that explain the yield improvement from old to new cultivars and the further yield improvement gained from the addition of SCN resistance. Studies were conducted at three Iowa locations during 2005 and 2006. Two old and two new SCN-susceptible, and two new SCN-resistant cultivars were evaluated for total dry matter (TDM) accumulation and leaf area index (LAI) through the season along with yield and yield components at harvest. New cultivars produced yields superior to older cultivars due to increased crop growth rate (CGR) culminating in greater TDM 105 days after emergence (DAE). Yield was strongly associated with the number of seeds produced m–2 and this yield component accounted for almost all of the yield differences among cultivars. Seeds m–2 was positively related to CGR between 42 and 105 (growth stage R1–R5.5) DAE and to LAI 105 DAE. New SCN-resistant cultivars produced yields 17 to 19% greater than new susceptible cultivars across three locations. Increased TDM and CGR explained the yield response at the low-yield location, but not at the high-yield locations. Apparent harvest index (HI) was similar among all cultivars at each location. Selection for increased yield has indirectly selected for increased TDM and CGR with a similar amount partitioned to seed dry weight. Future yield gains will be made by (i) increasing the amount and the rate of dry matter (DM) and (ii) through the increased production and duration of leaf area.

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