Soybeans fast becoming an option across Alberta

Some things to know before you give soybeans a chance

It really wasn’t that long ago that we were wondering if canola was a viable option in Alberta. Now it’s time to consider soybeans.

I am quite enthusiastic about the prospects for growing soybeans in this province. Over the last couple of years we’ve had many reasons to find another crop for the rotation, the main motivations being clubroot, blackleg, Fusarium and Aphanomyces. These diseases are becoming more prevalent across Alberta.

Having another rotational crop that offers farmers the opportunity to make more money is more than welcome in my eyes. But are soybeans truly viable?

This crop year is the first to see a significant acreage of soybeans going into the ground in central and northern Alberta. Significant means more than 50,000 acres, and not just plots. Some producers are planning on putting in between less than one quarter and 1,000 acres depending on their level of risk tolerance.

Yield potential

Since we are newer to growing beans in central and northern Alberta, we haven’t had to deal with the struggles of the old technology (Roundup Ready (RR) 1 varieties vs RR2 varieties). With the new technology we’re able to achieve higher yields due to their improved genetics. We also have better disease packages built in. So don’t be fooled by a cheaper priced bean that is a RR1 variety. The cost savings are not worth it in the end.

Early maturity

The soybean variety choice for an Alberta grower is limited because we simply don’t get the day length, heat and/or moisture that would allow us to grow late-maturing soybeans. We need to pick an early season, double-zero variety – or better yet, an early season, triple-zero variety. A double-zero (00) variety will need more days to maturity than a triple zero (000), and a 000.9 will typically need more days to mature than a 000.6 variety. But the rating system isn’t necessarily consistent between seed companies.

Seed developers are continually putting money and research into finding us more and more options for “early” soybean varieties. However, seed companies categorize their bean varieties within their own portfolios, so two varieties listed as 000.7 may actually mature at different times if they’ve been released by two different seed companies.

It’s also necessary to learn how the same variety performs in each region of Alberta. We have found that one variety of soybean matures differently not only from Manitoba to Alberta but also from Camrose to Grande Prairie. So growing a selection of varieties with different maturities will help you get local information. Data recording is going to be very important over the next few years.

Last year, I had the opportunity to observe the varieties DEKALB® 23-11, Syngenta® S0009-M2, Dario, Leroy, and Watson growing in Alberta fields. All of these varieties went to harvest, but some with major yield reductions either due to being a later season variety (Dario) or older genetics (Leroy). The other three were similar when it came to yield, and if there were differences in yield between varieties or where they were grown, it was more due to agronomic practices than the varieties themselves. This year I have a lot of side-by-side plots featuring different varieties from the same companies and against different companies. I’ll be recording podding height, plant structure, maturity, yield and other differences that will give us more information on soybeans to help make them a viable option in Alberta.

So far this year across my territory I have been impressed with DEKALB 22-60, Syngenta S0009-M2, and Syngenta S0009-D6. So far all three have been showing similar maturities with the major difference being plant structure. DEKALB is a bushier plant, and Syngenta is semi-bushy. A few new early season triple zero varieties for this year that I will be keeping a close eye on are the DEKALB DKB0005-44 and DKB0009-89, Syngenta S0007-B7X and Brett Young™ Nocoma R2.

If you’d like to get a firsthand look at some soybean Field Tests in your area, contact your local Cargill agronomist.

DEKALB® is a registered trademark of Monsanto Technology LLC. Syngenta is a registered trademark of Syngenta Canada. BrettYoung™ is a trademark of Brett-Young Seeds Limited.

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