Manitoba’s soybean crop was looking like a train wreck in mid-August.
Soybeans need rain in early August for pod fill, but most of Manitoba was in the middle of a drought.
Plus, there was a week of blazing temperatures in the second week of August with daily highs reaching 37 C.
Many growers and soybean experts were worried about yield, including Terry Buss, Manitoba Agriculture’s production extension specialist in Beausejour.
Buss assumed that farmers would be lucky to harvest average yields of 35 to 38 bushels per acre.
While the harvest has been extremely challenging because of cool, wet weather in late September and early October, soybean yields have exceeded expectations in much of eastern Manitoba.
“People were concerned. I was concerned because it was hot and dry in July and August,” Buss said.
“(But) overall … people have been, for the most part, pleasantly surprised. The yield reports I’m getting up here are long-term average to better than that.”
Manitoba Agriculture said in its Oct. 9 crop report that soybean yields have been 30 to 50 bu. per acre in eastern Manitoba. Over the last several years the provincial average has been 35 to 41 bu. per acre.
The story is similar in central Manitoba, where soybean yields are averaging in the mid 30s.
Average is rarely exciting. However, given the blistering temperatures and lack of rainfall in July and August, average is much better than a disastrous yield, such as 15 bu. per acre.
It’s difficult to know why soybeans persevered in parts of Manitoba, but a couple of factors may have helped: there were virtually no soybean aphids this summer and disease pressure was minimal.
“The disease surveys that I did in my area were pretty boring because there wasn’t much to look at,” Buss said.
In the end, yields in eastern and central Manitoba may come out as average.
It may be a much different story in the western side of the province.
As of Oct. 9, Manitoba Agriculture estimated that 60 percent of the soybean harvest was complete. Manitoba farmers planted about 1.9 million acres of soybeans in 2018, which means about 750,000 acres were still in the field.
Most of the soybean harvest is done in eastern Manitoba, despite the cold and wet conditions over the last three weeks. In southwestern and northwestern regions, most of the crop remains in the field.
Growers in those areas desperately need a week of normal or above normal temperatures. Soybeans are especially challenging when fields are wet and muddy because flex headers are positioned just above the ground to pick up the lowest pods, and it’s easy to get bogged down by mud and muck.
In Buss’ part of Manitoba, a number of growers are still trying to get on their wet fields.
“They’re watching … how muddied up their header is becoming,” he said.
“Everybody has been circulating around from field to field — try here or try there…. My clients are driving around a lot, figuring out where to work.”