Brace yourself for a possible big leap in Manitoba soybean acres in 2011.
Soybean plantings could jump by 40 per cent or more this year, following a record crop in 2010 despite adverse growing conditions, producers at St. Jean Farm Days were told.
Strong prices and the arrival of new varieties are fuelling the potential increase, said Brian Jack, a Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives farm production adviser.
“We have the acres,” Jack said after speaking to the group.
Some people in the industry predict a million acres of soybeans for Manitoba this year, although 750,000 acres may be more realistic, Jack said.
Manitoba farmers planted 530,000 acres of soybeans in 2010. Most were harvested despite heavy rains and spring flooding, said Jack.
Soybeans withstand wet conditions better than edible beans do. Even so, their recovery from flooding was amazing. Jack said he witnessed a field of newly planted soybeans near Emerson last spring completely covered with water. Two weeks later, the water was gone and the beans were coming out of the ground.
Yields were impressive, too. In the southern Red River Valley, the heart of Manitoba soybean country, average yields were 40 bushels an acre, compared to the long-term average of 32 bushels, Jack said.
Also impressive are spot prices, which were topping $12 a bushel for January- February delivery last week, according to seed company exhibitors at St. Jean Farm Days. New crop contract prices are around $11.35 a bushel, up more than $2 from a year ago.
Soybeans have been a remarkable success story in a short time for Manitoba agriculture. Before 1998, there was no commercial production of soybeans in the province.
In 2009, producers harvested 400,000 of the 415,000 soybean acres planted, according to Statistics Canada.
New soybean varieties available for the first time in Manitoba this year could provide a further boost to acreage.
Eight new varieties of Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans could potentially be available to growers in 2011, Jack said.
Roundup Ready 2 Yield is the second generation of glyphosate-tolerant soybeans. It is covered by a different patent from the original one on Roundup Ready soybeans, which expires in August 2011.
Jack said farmers must still make their technical use agreement (TUA) payments on Roundup Ready soybeans this year. They may not save seed from their 2011 crops. Only in 2012 will growers have the option to buy certified Roundup Ready soybean seed from a company holding a licence for them.
One producer in the audience asked if companies will refuse to sell Roundup Ready seed in 2012. Jack said he didn’t know.
Jack said Roundup Ready 2 soybeans have yielded seven to 12 per cent higher than their predecessor in field tests. However, seed costs are expected to be higher.
He said the varieties being released in 2011 take up to five days longer to mature, resulting in 127 to 132 days to maturity. However, other varieties scheduled for release in 2012 are earlier maturing.
Jack advised producers to experiment with Roundup Ready 2 soybeans, just as they would with a new wheat variety. He suggested they grow only a few acres in 2011 to see how the crop performs.
He also said Roundup Ready 2 soybeans have a “different plant architecture” with more branching than their predecessor.
– BRIAN JACK, MAFRI