Before settling on next season's varieties, Mid-South soybean producers may want to peruse Schillinger Seed's offerings.
“I've been involved in soybean research for over 40 years,” says John Schillinger, president of the Des Moines, Iowa, seed company. “I began that research at the University of Maryland before going to Asgrow Seed to help them start their soybean program in 1973.”
Schillinger spent 25 years with Asgrow and helped develop some stalwart varieties. A large portion of that success is traceable to Billy Rhodes, hired by Schillinger in 1978.
“Rhodes is an excellent soybean breeder, based in Maryland. He's put some great Mid-South varieties into producers' hands.”
The first big variety was a Group 3 — Asgrow 3127.
The pair was also involved in inserting the first Roundup Ready gene into one of Asgrow's Group 5s that came out of Rhodes' program. That work began in 1989 in a collaborative effort with Monsanto.
During the insertion process, “we found that (Asgrow 5403) had a propensity to produce more platelets. The variety's makeup was much more likely to have a successful gene insertion. That was a big breakthrough.
“By 1991, the expression and tolerance level were high enough to make (a GM bean) economically feasible. In 1996, those Asgrow beans developed by Billy were released to the market.”
Schillinger's retirement from Asgrow at the end of 1998 was a short one.
“I decided I'd like to start developing soybeans again. I focused on soybeans with higher protein content for both food and feed applications.”
At first, Schillinger was more successful with food beans than with feed.
“That's because in the food markets there's a bit more margin to work with. We were able to pay farmers a bit extra for the yield drag.”
Having started the new company in 2000, Schillinger brought Rhodes in a year later. Once the breeder was on board, “we began looking more intensely for commercial beans to get into the marketplace to help balance out our income stream.”
In 2004, the pair came up with “some really nice-looking varieties for the South. They were tested in many of the state yield tests and did very well.”
Skipping ahead to 2006, “we entered the market on a small scale, maybe several thousand acres. We're in a positive mood because those varieties are doing very well in extensive tests across the Delta.”
Most of the Schillinger varieties are Group 4s, applicable to the early planting that's become common in the South over the last decade.
What's being emphasized in developing the Schillinger varieties?
“What we've learned over the nearly 30 years Billy's had in development is farmers won't buy products that let them down. Consistency is vital. The higher the yields, of course, the more attractive they become.”
Sounding like a football coach, Schillinger says the company has placed a high priority on defensive packages.
“We have soybean cyst nematode resistance, stem canker resistance, frogeye resistance, and SDS tolerance. We screen for some in the greenhouse but can't do all. That's why, as we test varieties in multiple locations in the South, we pick sites where we hope there are expressions of those diseases.
“We try to eliminate the weaker ones quickly and maintain the better agronomics and yield potential. That involves a lot of visual sorting for disease and studying yield data compared to competitors.”
What about GM soybeans?
“Our most important product currently (Schillinger 495) is Roundup resistant. It's very difficult to get a variety set in the marketplace without (that). Monsanto has done a great job of putting that technology together and farmers are demanding it.
“Except for one — a high-protein variety we'll have a few acres of — most of the varieties we're introducing in the South are Roundup resistant.”
The upstart seed company has yet to gain name recognition.
“It's a growing process. The name isn't something most growers are familiar with. Many have seen the (Mississippi State University) yield trials recently and noticed we've been at the top for the last two years. That's certainly reason to check out what's in our products.
“Our varieties have been in many state yield tests down there — especially the 495 and 557. I know Alan Blaine (Mississippi Extension soybean specialist) has worked with them under good management practices and they've done well for him.”
Schillinger Seed will be doing more promotion this winter to increase awareness of its brand. But promotion isn't at the forefront.
“We're a very small company that wants a long life. You do that by producing good quality and winning farmers' confidence year after year. As a small company, we look at the future positively. But we understand there's a raft of competition that's very good and professional. So we're optimists but also realists.”
Schillinger Seed is also working with modified oil varieties.
“I see more and more oil customers demanding the low linoleic acid varieties. People want the trans fat concerns lessened. We'll be in the market next year with our first variety (in that arena).
“This is the future and will eventually be a large part of the soybean crop's value. There will be more and more demand for healthier oils.”
The company is also making significant progress in bringing higher protein levels to high-performance varieties. It will probably be 2008 before those reach the market. Quite a few of those are in the testing program and preliminary results are promising.
“When I used to teach at university, it was said there was a negative correlation between high protein and high yield. That barrier has since been largely broken down. What I'm seeing in field tests this year from high protein/high yields shows great progress.
“Our efforts are targeted towards building a value package in the oil and meal…We're on our way with the varieties we've currently got.
“Billy and I know how to do this. Check our record. We're not cutting corners. We don't have a big marketing program — you have to have the products first.”
SCHILLINGER suggests producers check out these Schillinger soybean varieties.
Schillinger 495. “This is an excellent variety. It's very consistent with good disease resistance. It's a shade less than we want on SDS, but it's great on stem canker, cyst nematodes and other things.”
Schillinger 557 is a later soybean variety that will available next year. “It's got a good disease package.”
Schillinger 457 is a bit earlier than the first two listed. It had a very strong yield performance in 2005.
Schillinger 467. Seed production has also begun on this variety.