Cold Snowy Winter, Wet Spring?

By Shari Narine

A wet spring brought about by heavy snow pack melt could result in higher acres of soybean in 2017.

And if winter to date in the Prairie provinces is any indication, wet, wet, wet is what producers are looking at.

“Soybean is a crop that does like moisture. It doesn’t like flooding but it does like moisture. So it might actually do well,” says Dale Risula, provincial pulse specialist for Saskatchewan.

Last year was a mild winter, but not so far for 2016-2017.

“Frost is likely going to form deeper in the soil profile and with the amount of snow – if it keeps on snowing, depends on what happens for the rest of the year – we could have quite a bit of water to deal with as well in spring at runoff. That also depends on how quickly things thaw in the spring,” says Risula.

Years of high levels of precipitation and moisture have brought disease issues for different crop cultivars, including root rot in some of the pulse crops.

“I’m not sure there’s any crop immune to these. It seems there’s at least one disease for every crop out there,” says Risula.

“Soybeans are a relatively new crop to our landscape, so there has not been a build-up of a great deal of disease inoculum that might be there for other crops,” he added.

But that doesn’t mean soybean producers are in the clear if the weather continues to be cold and the amount of snowfall remains at near-record levels.

“The immediate impact of that could suggest there will be a lot of flooding,” says Risula.

And even though soybeans like moisture, flooding is a different issue.

Risula says producers may want to consider drainage, but notes there are restrictions in how farmers can drain their land. In Saskatchewan, they need to obtain permission and plans from the water authorities and those may not be forthcoming as drainage impacts other areas.

A wet spring will also mean difficulty getting heavy equipment on the land. Waiting for the ground to dry could cause a delay in seeding. Although most producers seed directly into the stubble, so little soil preparation is required. The preference is to carry out some form of weed control practice prior to seeding.

“Generally, most crops do best under the most early seeding date as possible, typically that’s some time in May. If it’s pushed beyond that, because we are at such a northern latitude and our growing season is not the longest in growing seasons in the agricultural system, that’ll push the maturity of crops to quite a late date in the fall, and, therefore, they’re more at risk to frost and that sort of thing,” says Risula.

Soybeans especially need an early seeding date. As producers are finding a benefit to blackening the soil before seeding, wet soil conditions could push seeding back even further. Cultivating the soil to get rid of most of the straw heats up the soil and soybeans thrive on warmth.

“That’s an important factor with soybeans which are quite sensitive to cold and cold injury when they’re seedlings,” Risula notes.

Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers’ executive director Francois Labelle agrees that soybeans could be hurt this season if they can’t get in the ground soon enough. The latest they can be planted after a hard spring frost, he says, is May 25.

And the most producers can do at this point is wait, he says. And not even the forecast is helpful. Labelle says he has heard that February through April is supposed to bring less snow and be warmer than normal.

“But I’ve also heard there’s still a chance of us having some erratic weather and that means precipitation,” says Labelle.

Labelle’s weather prediction?

“I know what we’re hoping for: a good warm dry spring so we can get a crop in the ground in good conditions,” he says.