The 2017 Soybean Planting Experience

By Shari Narine

Going into the 2017 seeding season, it was anticipated that there were many challenges growers had to deal with, some stemming from the challenges of the 2016 fall. What were growers up against, and how did seeding go in Western Canada?

It turns out, there were near perfect seeding conditions in Saskatchewan and Manitoba for soybeans this spring, which saw the majority of producers completing the task by the end of May.

The south and central regions of Manitoba had a bit more favourable seeding conditions than the western portion, says Cassandra Tkachuk, product specialist with Manitoba Pulse Growers.

While southern and central producers got their soybean seed in by around the mid mark of May, western producers were still on track for the later part of the month. And that’s what matters, says Tkachuk, because seeding by the end of May still allows for the best yield potential.

Some farmers were eager to hit the fields when the weather turned warm and dry, but Tkachuk issued some caution.

“I was telling growers to wait until the other side of the frost, instead of putting soybeans in just before the frost. That way, when they’re first imbibing water into the seed, it’s not cold water,” she says.

Once the seed is in the ground and 24 to 48 hours have passed, frost is not an issue. But once the seedling is out of the ground, frost can be a killer.

The same dry conditions that allowed producers to start seeding earlier may have become an issue soon after, though.

“It might be [an issue] if we don’t get some timely rains to get the crop off to a good start,” says Tkachuk.

Dry conditions could result in slow emergence, and even potential mortality. She says she’s also heard that dry conditions coupled with strong winds were causing recently planted soybean seeds to be blown away.

Dale Risula, provincial specialist, special crops for Saskatchewan Agriculture believes this year is shaping up to be pretty decent.

As soybeans need warmer soil temperatures, the early warm weather has provided producers with an advantage.

“The way it’s shaping up this year, I think the soils have warmed up quicker than normal and that would be good for soybean development in the initial stages,” says Risula.

The warm temperature combined with moisture from the snow is a winning combination for soybeans.

The areas of the province where the soil has not warmed up quite as quickly or were the hardest hit by unharvested crop from the fall, are not areas that soybeans are grown, says Risula.

Also, he notes, in some fields with crop left on, soybean producers may have used what was left to help warm up the soil.

“A lot of residue may have been burned or just worked into the soil with tillage. A lot of last year’s crop may have been done away with that way instead of being harvested,” he says.

Both Tkachuk and Risula say the acreages planted in soybeans this year marks an increase in their provinces.

Tkachuk says Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers is predicting two million acres – an increase of 25 percent from 2016.

There are a number of reasons for that increase, including growing soybeans in the west where they typically haven’t been grown.

“Higher yielding, earlier maturing varieties have been developed that have really contributed to a widespread production of soybeans,” said Tkachuk, which means they can be grown outside of the traditional Red River Valley region.

The maturing rate of soybeans is still a challenge in Saskatchewan, says Risula, but that doesn’t seem to have hampered the crop’s popularity. Statistics Canada is forecasting that the acres of soybeans in Saskatchewan will almost triple, from last year’s 250,000 acres to 700,000 acres this year; however, Risula thinks it’s more realistic to expect 500,000 acres to be sown in soybean. (See more about soybean growth in Western Canada on page 9.)

“We’re sort of in a fringe area for that. There are varieties that are being developed all the time that seem to be better and better, that maintain the yield and mature a little earlier,” he says.

Some years, it takes soybeans 110 days to mature, but a more common timeline is 120 days, which makes it late harvesting.

But the other advantages to soybeans for Saskatchewan producers include the fact that soybeans are easy to work into the crop rotation, they don’t require specialized machinery, and, because they’re still a relatively new crop, soybeans aren’t impacted by disease or insects.

Tkachuk says there is also the return on soybeans to be considered. “We’re seeing some really good prices,” she says.