Scouting soybeans takes planning, time and effort

Soybean acres keep climbing in Manitoba because they’re doing better than edible beans, especially in the last three wet years, and they cost less per acre to grow.

Rob Park, a farmer, seed grower and consultant near Carman, Man., says farmers shouldn’t treat soybeans as idiot proof.

Soybean expansion

Park left a job as an oilseed specialist and in management, left MAFRI to tend to his farm full time three years ago. Then, he looked for a way to replace his off-farm income.

“I expanded the seed production in a different kind of way from what we used to do,” he says. “With soybeans taking off in the last while, we focused on soybean seed production — doing select seed foundation, registered and certified seed production.”

Park says there’s the potential for soybeans to set another new acreage record this year.

“How quickly the seed sold this year and how short the supply is tells us that we will press to that one million acres, this year possibly,” he says. “That will be a new record.”

Another reason for Park’s optimism when it comes to soybean acre expansion is that more and more farmers are talking about 25 per cent or a third of their acres going into soybeans.

How high those acreage numbers become depends on whether the industry gets earlier maturing and higher yielding varieties.

“The maturity is the Achilles’ heel to where things can expand into western Manitoba and the north,” says Park. “We have people going with retail outlets into Russell, Roblin, Souris west, and north of Brandon making for a huge area, but we need to be strong yielding and we need to be early.”

Scouting

While still staying on top of what is going on in his fields, Park employs a professional agronomist to look after the day-to-day detail because of the other seed work he does on and off the farm.

“Ultimately I’m responsible for all the decisions and I need to see it with my own eyes too,” says Park.

While it’s impossible to do so every time, or even every year, ultimately a farmer needs to look at the entire field. ark crisscrosses while roguing, zigzagging in the shape of a “W,” and making some random walks to see what’s there. He spends a great deal of time and makes many miles on his four-wheeler looking at conditions during different parts of the growing season.

“I’m always looking for something. A weed, insect or disease, but for all three at the same time,” says Park. “I’m looking for, generally, where is the competition? What is the limiting factor to the plant? And what is competing against it for nutrients, sunlight and for space. Sometimes that’s weeds, sometimes insects, and leaf diseases.”

When he sees a problem, Park implements a solution, putting in a scheduled herbicide application, timing an insecticide application to take out soybean aphids, or possibly doing a fungicide application to maintain good plant health.

Park suspects soybeans are 99 per cent Roundup Ready in the southern Manitoba market. The glyphosate products work well. Other products like Pursuit take care of volunteer canola and grassy control products take care of some volunteer corn.

Be cautious

“Just on the cost side, with fertilizer prices about to shoot back up again, it makes very good sense to grow soybeans,” Park says. “Some will look at a crop like soybeans versus canola, but canola has seen strong prices too.”

Going forward, Park says farmers must be cautious and not treat soybeans lightly when it comes to crop management.

“Some say it’s idiot proof —spray Roundup an few times, its done,” Park says. “That maybe okay for now, but once we start to see a presence of soybeans in Manitoba for a long time, we must be watching for the next test that’s coming,” he says. “Everything has its test once it’s been around for awhile.”

There are diseases that soybean farmers will need to watch for that have not been seen here before, such as soybean rust. Another potential problem that already effects soybean growers in the U.S. and Ontario is soybean cyst nematoad, a roundworm that infects that root of the soybean and can have a devastating impact on yield.

“It may never be a problem here, but if we grow millions of acres of soybeans in Manitoba, it will find its way here,” Park says. †

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