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Exploring soybean management options for environments with contrasting water availability

Di Mauro, Guido, Borrás, Lucas, Rugeroni, Pablo, Rotundo, Jose L.
Journal of agronomy and crop science 2019 v.205 no.3 pp. 274-282
cultivars, farmers, genotype, row spacing, seeds, soybeans, stand density, stress tolerance, water shortages, water stress
Soybean is commonly cultivated under rainfed conditions being water availability the main constraint. We evaluated the performance of different managements under contrasting water availability to test possible trade‐offs among managements, and to determine physiological variables explaining these yield differences. Four treatments were designed through specific combinations of cultivar, row spacing and stand density. They were classified as stress tolerance or yield potential strategies and were evaluated under two contrasting water availability treatments. Treatments ranged from 349 to 954 mm total water availability. Water stress treatments yielded 72% and 59% of the well‐watered treatment each year, similar to frequent soybean water stress levels for our production region. Management treatments showed significant yield differences (p < 0.05), but the management × water availability interaction did not (p = 0.42). No management option helped reduce negative water stress effects. Highest yields were achieved using 0.25 m row spacing, a stand density of 60 pl per m², and a high yield potential genotype. Yield variations were explained by differences in harvested seeds per unit area (R² = 0.75; p < 0.001) and total N uptake at maturity (R² = 0.93; p < 0.001) across environments. Because management strategies specifically tailored to cope with water shortages showed limited value, farmers need to target yield potential management options.