As 2019 draws to a close, let’s take a look back and reflect on the challenges and opportunities that western Canadian Soy Masters faced during the growing season. Now is also a great time to look forward and plan to apply lessons learned for a profitable and prosperous 2020.
To help with this recap, we asked our territory sales reps Steve Clark, Dustin Godard and Erin Petrichuk for a summary of what happened in their respective parts of the Prairies this year.
A significant challenge in Western Canada in 2019 was lack of moisture throughout most of the growing season.
“Dry conditions never allowed soybeans to achieve their yield potential,” says Clark, whose territory is north of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
In Petrichuk’s area east of Regina, Saskatchewan, the first rains of spring didn’t come until mid-June.
“Drought conditions really impacted the early-maturing varieties,” she says. “The beans started to finish off before they could utilize some of the later rains.” As a result, Petrichuk reports that yields were down in her area for the third year in a row.
“My region experienced a lot of variability in yield due to the sporadic rains,” says Godard, whose territory is southwestern Manitoba.
Growers across all areas faced adverse weather conditions again at the end of the season, but for opposite reasons – too much moisture. “Excessive rain and heavy snow provided for challenging harvest conditions,” says Clark. “Harvest was long and drawn out. Mud and ruts in the fields caused equipment to get stuck, which leads to wear and tear.”
Opportunities in soybeans
A bright spot for soybeans in 2019 was insect management. As it turns out, the dry weather didn’t heighten insect pressure in the crop. This was the opposite experience of fields seeded with canola.
“Soybeans gave growers a break from the massive outbreak of flea beetles across the Prairies,” says Godard. “Harvest was tough, but the beans survived the adverse weather quite well compared to other crops. The snow flattened canola and wheat while most soybeans were able to stay standing and hold their quality.”
The crop also continues to provide a nice rotational alternative to cereals and canola. “Soybeans have a great reputation because they can break up harvest to allow cereals and canola to be harvested first,” says Clark, adding that low disease pressure and low input costs also makes the crop appealing to growers.
Lessons learned in 2019
According to Godard, many growers learned an important lesson in 2019. “Don’t plant by the calendar, judge field and weather conditions,” he says.
Petrichuk adds that seed bed preparation is important. “You’ve got to manage residue to achieve even emergence when the moisture comes,” she says.
A key takeaway in Clark’s territory is that soybeans are able to withstand extreme weather, such as fall rain and snow.
Looking toward 2020
With the lack of fertilizer applied in fall 2019, Clark expects there will be a logistical challenge to get everything applied in spring. “This makes soybeans an excellent option to plant in spring 2020,” he says. “With soil moisture replenished and in excess, soybeans provide an excellent option for wet seeding conditions in spring. If conditions stay wet through 2020, soybeans are not as affected by disease such as cereals and canola.”
“In good conditions, soybeans can be sown earlier to maximize yield and take advantage of spring moisture,” adds Godard. “This can keep a grower seeding while delaying some canola planting until conditions are ideal. You don’t want canola sitting idle in the ground for two weeks to feed the flea beetles.”
“Many growers in the central part of my territory are struggling with peas and lentils having severe issues with Fusarium root rots,” says Petrichuk. “Soybeans might be one of the only options for these producers to incorporate a pulse into their rotation.”
As Soy Masters we are continually learning in order to grow a better crop. Before you close the book on 2019, take some time to identify the key lessons that you’re taking into 2020 to make it the best year yet.