Reflections on a soybean season worth celebrating
See what we learned about soil moisture and variety selection.
It feels like the first time in a long time that farmers and agronomists are excited about a soybean crop in Manitoba. The previous three summers were wracked with drought or torrential rain, and 2019 saw some of the worst soybean yields of recent years. But the 2020 season turned that downward trend right around. My customers were pleased with yield, and the province’s crop report indicates average yield was around 45 bushels/acre. (Source: Manitoba 2020 Crop Report)
You may be wondering what conditions led to these strong yields, or you might be planning on adding soybeans to the rotation again. Read on to see my soybean variety recommendations and my learnings from the 2020 growing season.
Giving soybeans another chance? Trust these two local favourites.
I feel confident recommending DEKALB DKB005-52 and Syngenta S007-Y4 to growers, even in situations where I have limited information on their farm. These two varieties are local favourites in my territory in southeastern Manitoba.
DEKALB DKB005-52 can handle narrow and wide (30-inch) row spacing, drought and rain. It seems to adapt to conditions and do well every year.
I’ve seen Syngenta S007-Y4 take everything nature and farmers can throw at it. It can adapt to tough soil conditions, less-than-ideal moisture situations, and a range of seeding rates.
If you’re growing soybeans for the first time, or if you’ve taken a break from soybeans and want to grow them again, ask your Cargill agronomist about these varieties to see if they’re favourites in your region too. You can also check out the soybean section of Cargill’s 2020-2021 Decision Guide to find a variety with the features that are important to you:
Want to try something new? Book this impressive newcomer.
I ran trials of Syngenta S005-C9X in four on-farm Field Tests this season, and I predict it will soon become a contender for the top spot in the Syngenta soybean portfolio. In one plot, C9X was planted in a rutted field situated in a flood plain, and it proceeded to flood twice. Despite these challenging conditions, C9X yielded 53 bushels/acre. In two adjacent plots in the same field, a trial of Syngenta S007-A2XS yielded 51 bushels/acre and Syngenta S006-M4X yielded 38 bushels/acre.
I also saw phytophthora spread throughout that low-lying field, but the phytophthora stopped at the C9X plot.
We don’t have a lot of data on Syngenta S005-C9X as we’ve only had it on trial for one season, but if you like to try the latest varieties on the market, I recommend putting this one on a field.
Soybean learnings from 2020
The first thing we learned is that soybeans can handle a rutted field if soil temperatures are right. The wet 2019 harvest meant many farmers couldn’t cultivate their fields before seeding. But the soybeans didn’t seem to mind. Farmers were diligent in waiting for the soil temperature to reach at least 10° C, and we saw good emergence.
The second thing we learned is that soybeans will thrive as long as they receive moisture at three critical periods. Those periods are:
- Flowering stage in June: Soybeans cannot tolerate extended periods of hot, dry conditions during this stage. We caught the right amount of rain for the R1 (beginning flowering) stage.
- Rapid water and nutrient uptake by the plants in mid-July through mid-August:[KM1] [LS2] [LS3] We received a rainfall just prior to the R2 (full bloom) stage, which sustained the plants through the next few growth stages.
- Pod fill in August: We received a late rain in August, which gave crops a boost for the R5 (beginning seed) stage.
Lastly, I was reminded of how important it is to keep track of disease pressure in your fields and how different soybean varieties respond to it. I saw phytophthora in several fields this year. While it isn’t a huge yield robber, it’s good to keep tabs on this disease as some soybean varieties come with a gene resistance package for certain strains. You want to know if the phytophthora in your field is one of the strains controlled by your soybean’s genetic package.
To scout for phytophthora, look for a single dead soybean plant or a patch of dead plants that have held onto their leaves. You’ll see the stem has turned brown, starting at the roots and moving up the plant.
Are soybeans part of your plan for 2021? Talk to your Cargill agronomist to see what they’ve noticed in soybean fields near you and to hear their recommendation for next season.