Soybean yield gain over the last century has been attributed to both genetic and agronomic improvements. Recent research has characterized how breeding efforts to improve yield gain have also secondarily impacted agronomic practices such as seeding rate, planting date, and fungicide use. To our knowledge, no research has characterized the relationship between weed—soybean interference and genetic yield gain. Therefore, the objectives of this research were to determine whether newer cultivars would consistently yield higher than older cultivars under increasingly competitive environments, and whether soybean breeding efforts over time have indirectly increased soybean competitiveness. Field research was conducted in 2014, 2015, and 2016 in which 40 maturity group (MG) II soybean cultivars released between 1928 and 2013 were grown season-long with three different densities of volunteer corn (0, 2.8, and 11.2 plants m-2). Soybean seed yield of newer cultivars was higher than older cultivars at each volunteer corn density (P<0.0001). Soybean seed yield was also higher in the weed-free treatment than at low or high volunteer corn seeding rates. However, soybean cultivar release year did not affect late-season volunteer corn shoot dry biomass at either seeding rate of 2.8 or 11.2 seeds m-2. The results indicate that while soybean breeding efforts have increased yield potential over time, they have not increased soybean competitiveness with volunteer corn. These results highlight the importance of other cultural practices such as planting date and crop row spacing for weed suppression in modern soybean production systems.
Nomenclature: Corn, Zea mays L.; soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merr.