Late planting of early soybeans explored

Growing season for soybeans could continue to shrink

Early-maturing soybean varieties have been a great benefit to Manitoba producers and now researchers are trying to determine if they can also be planted later in the season.

“I would have to say this is very exploratory work… we’re actually testing practices that aren’t the norm right now,” said Kristen Podolsky, a production specialist with the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers association. “With the introduction of early-maturing soybeans — a relatively recent introduction, within the past five years — what we’re wondering is, can we plant soybeans later than normal in these long-season areas?”

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Speaking to producers during a field tour at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research station in Morden last week, Podolsky said current varieties mature between 107 and 123 days. In long-season areas of the province, producers who plant June 10 are left with somewhere between 110 and 120 days for plants to reach maturity before a killing frost becomes likely.

But new, very-early-maturing varieties open up the possibility of planting later in the season and diminishing the risk of spring frost damage, she said.

“Spring weather isn’t always favourable so there is definitely interest among growers who are faced with the situation where they can’t plant until mid-June,” Podolsky said. “And right now soybeans aren’t an option for that because of crop insurance and because traditionally they wouldn’t mature in time.”

Where these new varieties can negate that risk is uncertain but it’s a possibility worth exploring, especially on a non-commercial basis, by researchers and extension staff.

“We want to do the work before growers take on that risk,” she said.

The study is in its second year, with test sites in Arborg, Morden and Portage la Prairie. Early, very-early and mid-season varieties were planted at each location.

“The idea there is that it covers each of our insurance test areas,” she said. “So it’s kind of like a long-, mid-, and short-season zone. And last year’s results were really, really interesting. In Morden and Arborg we yielded between 15 and 25 bushels, and then in Portage we yielded over 40.”

Part of those results may have been linked to an extra-long growing season in 2015 — a killing frost only arrived on September 28 and 29, which is much later than normal for Arborg and Portage la Prairie. Morden usually sees killing frost towards the end of September.

Yields at the Portage la Prairie test site were above normal, but were below normal in both Morden and Arborg, possibly due to wet conditions. Aphids were also a limiting factor.

“We weren’t really sure what to expect,” Podolsky said. “I think in Portage it was a lot higher than we expected, but we had really great growing conditions in Portage last year. We had good heat, good moisture and then we had a late frost. So that allowed those varieties to get to maturity.”

Next year will be the last season for the study, which MPSG says was driven by farmer interest.

“This is something producers were asking questions about, and we thought, ‘hey, we can do some research on that,’” she said. “We haven’t analyzed the data yet, but we will and we are working with crop insurance as well… it has been interesting, but it is still early.”

About the author

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Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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