New rotation | Pedigreed seed grower has success with the alternative crop in southern Alberta
EDMONTON — It may be a few years before soybeans are a common sight across Alberta, but the crop has already revolutionized one southern Alberta farm.
Pedigreed seed producer Patrick Fabian said after a few false starts, soybeans are now a permanent part of the rotation in his 800 acres of irrigated crops near Tilley, Alta.
“Soybeans are a wonderful crop,” Fabian told farmers at FarmTech 2013.
He said it is the last crop seeded and the last crop harvested. The plants don’t shell out, lodge, lie down or fall over. No fancy seeding or harvesting equipment is required and the beans are easy to market, he added.
“They will be waiting there for you when you get around to harvest.”
Fabian planted his first six acres in 2004 and figured out over the next few years what varieties grow best on his southern Alberta farm and what weed control works best in his irrigated fields.
Fabian turned his farm into an unofficial research farm, testing varieties and weed control options. He learned that varieties that grow well in Manitoba don’t do well on his farm.
Alberta farmers were growing 6,000 acres of the nitrogen-fixing legume by 2010, but cool, wet weather that year created a production nightmare with poor yields.
“2010 is when all the naysayers said, ‘I told you so. Soybeans don’t work in southern Alberta.’ ”
Acreage dropped to 700 acres the following year.
However, farmers saw yields of 25 to 60 bushels per acre last year with new Roundup Ready varieties. With strong yields and a new option for rotation, Fabian believes more than 6,000 acres of soybean will be grown in Alberta in the upcoming year.
“I think it will be an exciting time,” he said.
“There are lots of opportunities ahead. They are part of my rotation from this point forward.”
Fabian’s alternative crop in his rotation was alfalfa before growing soybeans, but it was hard to harvest two cuts of alfalfa without rain devaluing the hay.
“I raised alfalfa for 26 years. I only had three years that I had a good first and second cut. Every other year had rain damage,” he said.
“These things allowed me to get rid of $200,000 equipment for cutting and baling and stacking mouldy alfalfa.”
Unlike corn, soybeans don’t require special seeding and harvesting equipment and don’t need nitrogen while seeding.
The legumes produce all the nitrogen they need as long as they are properly inoculated.
“Soybeans are gaining traction in Alberta.”