When selecting soybean maturity there is no right or wrong answer until the combine rolls and gives the answer. In general, yield potential increases as soybean maturity increases. This is particularly true in northern latitudes where the season is condensed. The yield by maturity association is not as strong or direct as you might think. The best recommendation for maximum yield is to pick the products that have demonstrated very good yield potential in your maturity zone, have the correct defensive characteristics for your individual fields, and by selection, spread risk (Figure 1).
There are three main reasons growers select a range of products in their adapted maturity, one is to take advantage of the season, the second is to spread risk between different products (seed set, and grain fill timing differentiation), and the third is harvest timing. For larger growers, broadening the maturity across their portfolio reduces harvest loss risk and concerns with harvesting at sub-optimal moistures. To get a meaningful spread in maturity at harvest time, maturities should be spread out 1.0 to 1.5 RM days or more depending on how geographically spread out the operation is North to South.
If you find the right early maturing soybean, you can plant it and not worry about giving up much yield potential. Early maturing soybean products planted early can be the right fit for many reasons, like the opportunity to capture old crop pricing, provide extra time in the fall to apply manure or install tile drainage, or get a winter wheat or cover crop started. An early maturing soybean crop can allow for helping to make sure your harvest equipment is working and set properly before the remainder of the crop is ready to harvest.
Later maturing soybean products can potentially benefit from a longer growing season. A longer growing season can provide more sunshine, heat, and potentially more rainfall to help maximize yield potential. Having later maturing soybean products in your package can provide a better chance of harvesting the crop at optimal moistures and reducing harvest losses. There is always a balance of selecting a product that uses the full season and matures prior to a frost.
Selecting the right product and maturity are important decisions. To help maximize your yield potential, plant early, use a seed treatment to help ensure a good stand, control weeds, insects, and diseases as appropriate, and fertilize. Hopefully, at the end of the year your combine can tell you your decisions were the right ones!