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Even In A Tough Year, Soybeans Pull Through

Growing soybeans in 2009 — our eighth year with the crop — was quite the roller coaster ride. May was less than desirable, June was scary, July and August were wet, September was beautiful, October was a write off and November was awesome. It still turned out to be an average year for heat units at the Yorkton airport and slightly wetter. I would take average again in 2010, but would prefer each month staying a little closer to average.

We delayed seeding our soybeans until May 26, when the soil temperature started to increase and got closer to 9C. Corn heat units (CHU) decreased steadily throughout the month dragging soil temperatures down with them as the month progressed.

The first fields seeded were with LS0028RR, a new, 2425 CHU variety from Quarry Seed. It’s from the same line as LS0036RR, an early maturing variety with daylight sensitivity, excellent lodging resistance and iron deficiency chlorosis (IDC) score and high yield potential. Target seeding rate was 220,000 seeds per acre using 11″ shovels on our air seeder. It took two days to seed the LS0028RR, and then we seeded the LS0036RR. The LS0028RR was seeded into winter wheat and winter triticale stubble. LS0036RR was seeded on LS0036RR stubble. Some of the winter cereal stubble was fall cultivated and harrowed and the soybean stubble was worked with 4″ shovels in the fall. We rolled the land before the soybeans emerged to ensure a flat surface for our flex headers come harvest.

COLD START TO THE SEASON

The soybeans took about a week to get out of the ground due to cool conditions. Once emerged, the edges of the cotyledons were orange — a symptom of cool temperature damage. Around June 10, we received a light frost, enough to slow the beans down even more. At this point we were worried about decreased root development and decided to apply some foliar orthophosphate by applying Foliar Pride at one litre per acre.

When the heat finally came, the plants recovered and continued to grow. We saw our first nodules June 15. We were a bit concerned about the node interval spacing at this time. The first three nodes were very close together, indicating that the crop may have low pod clearance. This means there would be lots of pods close to the ground. By fall, we were proved right, especially on ground that had never seen soybeans and with heavy trash, which kept the soil temperatures lower. The soybeans seeded on soybean stubble tended to pod higher, be taller and yield more.

Even though plant height with soybeans means very little with respect to yield, a taller plant is easier to handle, as long as it stands. There was more white mold this year. Ron Gendzelevich from Quarry Seed said this was one of the worst years for white mold. The high humidity through August caused the white mold to flourish. Normally, we do not get that type of weather; we don’t anticipate this being a problem in the future.

INTERRUPTED HARVEST

Most crops were still a week behind by the end of August and the soybeans were no different. But the soybean plants started changing colour around September 10 with 90 per cent leaf drop by September 23. Harvest should have started 10 days later. Then the October monsoon season started. Needless to say, little harvest was done is October.

We managed to get most of the LS0028RR off, but none of it was dry. Our aim was to take them off below 20 per cent moisture. The best we could do was 15 per cent at the end of one day and then it rained again. Storage of the tough beans isn’t a problem, as long as there are few weeds or canola seeds in the sample. Canola almost gave us problems in one bin, but we moved it in time, taking out the canola with a rotary grain cleaner.

One field averaged six bushels of volunteer canola per acre, and the soybeans averaged 24 bushels per acre. The canola volunteered from six years ago. And to answer a lot of questions, no we did not have any Roundup Ready canola contamination in our soybean seed we sold. It is extremely easy to clean out. Any Roundup Ready canola customer’s might have had likely came from wildlife, equipment, wind and water disbursement, other seed contamination, gene transfer, or natural plant resistance, whether they have grown Roundup Ready canola or not.

We wrapped up harvest of the LS0036RR on November 5. Overall, the soybeans averaged 25 bushels per acre. Soybean yield averaged 10 bushels per acre higher on fields off soybean on soybean stubble. We’ve also seen improved canola yields the years following soybeans. Seed size on all fields was larger this year than the last four years.

Soybeans have found a permanent home on our farm, as they add to the sustainability of the farm. For 2010, we’ll seed around 550 acres out of our total 1,440, or 38 per cent of our total acres to soybeans. A high proportion of the acres will be seeded with our row planter, especially if we’re seeding soybeans on soy stubble. The rest of the acres will be seeded with our air seeder. We did run a trial in ’09 with our row planter and found that at 17″-spacing, the soybeans were slightly shorter but pods started higher — and that’s a good thing.

If time and land is available, we may seed a variety trial. The initial plan is to seed half of our soybean acres to LS0028RR and the other to 29002, a new very early maturing variety. There is a yield drag, but Manitoba trials show maturity is as much as 12-days earlier than the checks. On our two year soybean stubble, we’ll grow canola, then winter cereal on the canola stubble.

Kevin Elmy operates Friendly Acres Seed Farm with his wife Christina and parents Robert and Verene at Saltcoats, Sask. He can be contacted at 306-744-2779 or [email protected] friendlyacres. sk.ca.

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