Research compares dry land, irrigated soybean varieties

OUTLOOK, Sask. — Northern growers are looking to take advantage of the trend in increasing soybean acreage.

Research agronomist Garry Hnatowich said acreage has gone up dramatically in northern Montana and North Dakota, where soybeans are replacing dry beans.

In Canada, Hnatowich said Manitoba farmers planted more than 600,000 acres this year.

They typically grow soybeans under dry land conditions that are wetter than in Saskatchewan.

Researchers at the Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre are looking at whether irrigation could help Saskatchewan farmers get into the soybean game.

Only a few fields are planted in southeastern Saskatchewan, and Hnatowich said he isn’t aware of commercial fields in central areas.

Researchers are evaluating 18 Roundup Ready early season varieties that were planted at Outlook this spring under dry land and irrigation conditions.

“Moisture conditions in southern Manitoba are far higher than what we have in vast tracts of Saskatchewan, so there is a thought that maybe they will require a little bit of additional moisture,” Hnatowich said.

After four years of trials, he can’t yet recommend seeding irrigation acres to soybeans.

“So far we have never really exceeded our dry land yields to any great extent,” he said.

Above-average moisture the last couple of years is similar to what the beans would receive if grown in Manitoba. This summer’s hot days and humid nights created ideal conditions for the plants.

A hailstorm at the end of June caused significant damage, but in mid-July the plots were rebounding and thriving.

The centre received 300 millimetres of rain until July 12, an unusual amount for the area.

“To date we have not put a drop of irrigation on the soybeans,” Hnatowich told a field tour.

Under irrigation, eight millimetres of water would be applied and used by the crop each day.

Hnatowich said the rainfall of the last two years is a possible reason for no yield differences, but he can’t say for sure.

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