NDSU and the ND Soybean Council conduct research on soybeans

North Dakota State University (NDSU) along with the North Dakota Soybean Council have been working on creating the best soybean varities to benefit North Dakota producers.


Posted on 8/6/16

By Melissa Anderson

Dr. Ted Helms, a professor at NDSU specializing in soybean breeding and genetics, headed the breeding and research program that is now showing some very promising benefits for producers in the Cavalier County area.

“I develop varieties for both the most northern counties and the most southern counties,” Helms said,”I work with Dr. Berlin Nelson of the NDSU Dept. of Plant Pathology, and he does the screening for phytophthora root rot and Soybean Cyst Nematode.”

One example of how Helms’ research has benefitted producers was a study he conducted with Nelson. Helms and Nelson discovered through extensive field and laboratory research that the best way to increase yield on the heavy clay soils that receive too much rain is to choose a variety with good phytophthora root rot resistance.

Helms has been breeding soybean varieties for the state of North Dakoa since 1986 and has developed both non-GMO varieties and glyphosate-resistant (GMO) types. Helms also tests many of the private company varieties that are entered in the NDSU yield tests for tolerance to iron-deficiency chlorosis (IDC). The data collected from the resulting studies allows farmers to compare the tolerance to IDC varieties from many different companies.

“In 2016 we tested 226 private company Roundup Ready® varieties and 76 Liberty Link/Conventional varieties for tolerance to IDC,” Helms said, “I also evaluate 40 different Roundup Ready® varieties for yield on soils that are infested with Soybean Cyst Nematode (SCN).”

The research collected by Helms during his studies also enables farmers to identify the best variety for fields that are prone to IDC or fields that are infested with SCN. Also, if farmers have heavy clay soils that are not prone to IDC, selection of a variety with a good gene for phytophthora root rot will reduce the yield loss that occurs when a heavy clay soil is saturated with water from too much rain.

“The varieties must be resistant to phytophthora root rot and have good tolerance to iron-deficiency chlorosis,” Helms explained.

Before a variety is released to seed growers, it must be lodging resistant and have equal or better yield than the private company varieties. Under these requirements, any variety Helms releases has undergone testing for at least three years at multiple testing sites. Before a variety is released for Cavalier County it must first be tested for multiple years by the Langdon Research and Extension Center.

“I am hopeful that seed of any glyphosate-resistant variety that I develop and that is subsequently released by NDSU will be less expensive to buy than private company varieties,” Helms said.

In order for any glyphosate-resistant variety that is developed by Helms during the course of the research to be competitive on the market with soybean growers, Helms requires that the developed variety must have equal or better yield than the private company variety.

Soybean producers benefit from the research conducted by Helms because of his ability to provide unbiased data, allowing producers to compare the varieties of many companies in side-by-side comparisons for IDC without the shadow of potential bias. Helms’ data also provides aid to growers in choosing the best variety for their fields that are infested with SCN.

“My research at NDSU helps growers to identify which variety is best for each of their fields,” Helms explained, “Also, the development of non-GMO soybean varieties gives growers the option of saving a substantial amount of money on their seed costs, especially for fields that have glyphosate-resistant weeds.”

One such weed that is making its presence felt is the Dicamba-resistant Kochia, which has already been found in both Nebraska and Montana and may very well be present in North Dakota.

Another benefit to the producers who grow soybeans is the fact that public breeding, such as that currently being done by Helms, provides soybean growers with an alternative to purchasing seed from private companies. This option prevents a monopoly from occurring and may help prevent companies from over pricing for their seed variety.

“If farmers do not have an option of purchasing varieties developed by NDSU, then they will be forced to pay whatever price the companies choose to charge them for their soybean seed,” Helms said.

Some growers may have found that they are able to make more of a profit by growing a non-GMO soybean variety that was developed by NDSU, ND Henson, and using herbicides that provide alternative modes of action instead of just using glyphosate.

“Glyphosate cannot be applied to a non-GMO variety, such as ND Henson, because the glyphosate would kill the soybean crop,” Helms said.

ND Henson is a 00.9 maturity soybean variety that was developed by NDSU and is not resistant to glyphosate or Roundup herbicide. It has a very good yield, is lodging resistant, has a very good gene for phytophthora root rot resistance, and has good tolerance to IDC.

To prevent the development of glyphosate-resistant weeds such as Kochia, Water Hemp and Ragweed, growers would benefit by using herbicides with different modes of action. Helms notes that there are herbicides other than glyphosate which are available to growers and do a good job of controlling weeds.

“If growers choose to use other herbicides that are not the same as glyphosate, they can save seed costs by planting the ND Henson soybean variety,” Helms explained.

The IDC data and the SCN yield data is published in Extension Bulletin A-843 and is also available online at the NDSU Dept. of Plant Sciences website (