When you run across a management tool that can help you make better choices, it's clearly a winner. That's how Chase and Page Walt, Jefferson County, AR, sum up their experience with SOYVA.

SOYVA (soybean varieties) is a software program developed at the University of Arkansas to help farmers make informed soybean variety selections. It's free for growers with Internet access.

With 2,500 acres of soybeans, rice, corn and cotton on McGhee silt loam and Perry clay, the Walt brothers have poorly drained areas where beans are susceptible to root rot. That's where they enlisted the help of SOYVA. They claim it saved them time and money.

"It only took 15 minutes for me to answer the SOYVA questions," Chase says. The result: Eight varieties adapted to certain weather situations, especially periods of cool and wet weather during the germination period, were recommended for their farm.

SOYVA software was developed over the past 17 years, says Lanny Ashlock, University of Arkansas extension soybean specialist.

"The data we use is a result of at least two years of test plots for each variety," says Ashlock. "The plots are in different locations around the state, and we evaluate both public and private varieties."

Those extensive tests include data on yield, disease characteristics, herbicide sensitivity and chloride screening.

SOYVA uses a series of 13 questions on region, type of soil and planting date to sift through about 120 soybean varieties from maturity groups III to VI that are adapted to Arkansas.

Further questions on a specific field's problems with nematodes, diseases and lodging, plus irrigation availability and a grower's choice of herbicides, narrow the selection down to a manageable number of recommendations.

Information on those recommended varieties includes two-year yield average, mature plant height, shatter resistance and whether the seed is patented. Additionally, the program lists varieties not recommended for a particular set of circumstances.

SOYVA is available on the university's Web site and is available to download free. Go to www.uaex.edu/agronomy/default.htm and click on "soybeans" under "agronomy program," then hit "SOYVA." If you're not on the Internet, SOYVA is available on floppy disk at a nominal charge, plus a $5 fee for yearly updates.

For more information, call Lanny Ashlock at 501-617-2278.

Other states have similar programs, so check with your local county extension office.