By Darren Hefty

Today’s soybean genetics have a very high yield potential!  The world record was broken this year and the bar is now set at 171 bushels per acre!  I’ve talked to many producers across the country raising 80, 90, 100 bushels per acre and more.  The key to high yielding soybeans is getting the fertility right and then intensively managing the crop to minimize all other stresses throughout the rest of the season.
The question of which trait to choose is coming up more and more due to weed resistance and tighter margins.
In 2015, there were two main herbicide tolerant trait choices with Roundup Ready and LibertyLink.  In 2016, there was a relatively small launch for the new Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Soybeans.  For 2017, Xtend is gaining a huge amount of acres, and the LibertyLink trait is seeing substantial growth once again.  Here are a few comparisons you need to look at before making your seed trait decision for 2017.


There is rarely data available pitting LibertyLink versus any of the other traits.  Believe me, it’s not because there is a yield drag.  The LibertyLink varieties have excellent top-end yield potential.

Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans have been in many trials in 2016 up against the best Roundup Ready and Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans.  Look at trials in your area and see the results for yourself or go to and see data we’ve compiled.  While there were almost always fewer Xtend entries in plots compared to RR2Y, the Xtends often finished at or near the top.  We’re highly confident that Xtend and RR2Y lines have top-end yield potential, as well.


Most dealers are pricing Xtend varieties significantly higher than Roundup Ready beans mainly due to lack of supply.  However, dealers with good levels of Xtend supply are pricing the varieties often within $2 to $4 per unit of Roundup Ready 2 Yield seed.  Within the Roundup Ready Plus program, there are added incentives to help bring the Xtend program cost in line with RR2Y soybeans.

There is some pricing fluctuation of Liberty Link varieties across the country with some areas seeing them priced lower than RR2Y beans, while others are similar to or higher than their RR2Y counterparts.

That said, the price difference between the seed and herbicides involved in each program is often less than the price of one bushel of soybeans.  Check with your local suppliers for the full program cost in your area.


Looking beyond yield, consistent performance is often attributed to the defensive package of each of the varieties.

  • XTEND – In the Xtend lines, almost every one of them has a phytophthora gene and cyst nematode resistance.  There are some lines with STS tolerance for double-crop acres.  It would be nice to see some more with root knot nematode resistance and salt excluder characteristics, but that can be said for all the traits.  In the northern markets, there are a good number of options for strong iron deficiency chlorosis tolerance and the single best white mold tolerant product I’ve ever seen.
  • LIBERTYLINK – Most of the varieties have cyst nematode resistance above a mid-Group 0.  There are excellent choices for iron deficiency chlorosis tolerance in the north.  Most lines have a phytophthora gene, although there are some holes in the Group 1’s and early-Group 2’s.  Southern varieties frequently handle the whole gamut of diseases like frog eye, stem canker, and sudden death syndrome, as well as root knot nematode.
  • RR2Y – Especially in the Roundup Ready 2 Yield varieties, the disease tolerance and nematode protection is covered broadly across the entire nation.


  • RR2Y – With the 3 PRE strategy using metribuzin, one of the yellows (Treflan, Sonalan, or Prowl) and a PPO like Valor or Authority, you can still knock out 99% of small-seeded broadleaf weeds.  Timely application of a diminishing list of effective post choices is required, and the post-emerge residual herbicides like Warrant have added control, as well. Gramoxone has been the burndown substitute for Roundup when needed.
  • LIBERTYLINK – Liberty is highly effective on nearly all annual broadleaf weeds.  Use of the same PRE strategy listed above plus timely application of 1 or 2 shots of Liberty has worked well.  Adding in a post-emerge residual herbicide extends (no pun intended) your control window.
  • XTEND – Pending all federal and state approvals for post-emerge use, the new dicamba alternatives such as Xtendimax and Engenia will be a big help on resistant weeds.  Keep in mind that dicamba does not work well in cold weather, and it will not consistently take down weeds greater than 6 inches tall.  Otherwise, all the same rules hold true with this program compared to the others.  Use the PRE program and add residuals in the post-emerge applications.  The big advantage with Xtend may come from using dicamba products to greatly improve burndown weed control and eliminate early season injury we’ve often seen from the residual effects of 2,4-D use.


All three traits yield well.  All three traits offer good defensive characteristics across maturities with some advantages for RR2Y and Xtend traits especially in the northern geographies.  From a cost standpoint, all traits when combined with their respective weed control programs are going to be fairly similarly priced.  Your choice comes down to if you prefer to use Liberty for added weed control, dicamba (once labeled) for weed control, or simply stick with the Roundup Ready program you’ve been working with.