Southern soybean producers may soon have an answer to weather-soaked, harvest-ready beans. New hard-coated varieties appear to weather the worst of rainstorms at harvest.

The new lines are nearing the end of the research phase. If they pass weathering and yield tests, the beans should be released to commercial seed companies for 2003, says Steven Moore, Louisiana State University (LSU) soybean breeder.

Moore and associates selected lines developed in a breeding program out of the LSU-Alexandria research center.

The potential for raincoat-wearing beans is great news for Byron Lemoine, Hamburg, LA. He grows 750 acres of beans in a 2,800-acre operation that includes cotton, grain sorghum, wheat and sugarcane.

“Sometimes it's dry much of the summer, then we're hit with a Gulf tropical storm system or hurricane that sets in and gets us soaked,” says Lemoine. “In 2001, it rained eight straight days in many areas (of Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas) at harvesttime.

“It rotted the majority of the beans and many fell out of the pods onto the ground. Combines just ground up the beans,” he says. “The advantage of the hard seed coat is that the rain wouldn't have affected the beans.”

Moore's hard seed coat research has been funded mainly from the Louisiana Soybean and Grain Research and Promotion Board, of which Lemoine is chairman.

As part of the research, seed lines are placed in laboratory dishes filled with water and monitored to determine which ones show promise. “Some hard seed may be in water over a year and still remain hard,” says Moore.

His goal is to prevent the development of normal pathogenic or physiological problems associated with weathering that will normally kill soybean quality.

“Many of our studies surround the use of USDA varieties developed in Stoneville, MS, by Edgar Hardwig,” he says. “They are D8 7-4647 and D8 6-4565.”

In one field study, test plots were harvested at maturity, one month following maturity and then two months later. “By the last harvest, we had accumulated about 7” of rain,” says Moore. “The hard coat beans were still high in quality at harvest. Most had over 80% germination. If they didn't have the hard coat trait, they'd have been badly damaged.”

To get hard seed coat lines to sprout at planting involves a “scarification” process. Seeds are run through a modified seed polisher that makes tiny scratches on them to allow for germination. “One tiny scratch will enable water to penetrate the seed,” says Moore.

Roundup Ready lines are being crossed with the hard seed coat lines to provide what growers want, Moore adds.