Snow causes soybean headaches in Manitoba

More than a million acres of soybeans are still standing in Manitoba, and a large percentage of those plants are standing in snow.

A massive snowstorm, just before the Thanksgiving weekend, dumped 15 to 40 centimetres of snow on the south-central region of the province.

Forecasters are predicting temperatures of 10 to 12 C in Manitoba, later this week, which should allow some producers to resume combining. Other farmers will have to wait longer for fields to firm up before harvest can resume, but leaving the crop until next spring isn’t a great option, says a soybean production adviser.

“Right now, the snowfall has caused some lodging in soybeans. If you let them stand throughout the winter, that just makes them more prone to lodging. And, basically, it just wrecks your soybean crop,” said Cassandra Tkachuk of the Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers Association.

In most years, Manitoba soybean growers have completed harvest by the middle of October. With record rainfall in September in snow in October, the weather has severely delayed harvest and is causing unique challenges.

“One of the things I’ve read, and we’ve actually seen this year, is that wetting and drying a few times makes the pods twist,” Tkachuk said. “We can see pods twisting open and seed s… falling out … (and) with opening of pods comes the risk of moulds.”

Another concern is soybean moisture content.

Ideally, soybeans should be harvested at 13 percent moisture. This harvest season is far from ideal, so growers should focus on getting the crop off and deal with moisture issues later.

“Knowing our harvest time is so limited, you almost need to get them off however you can,” Tkachuk said from her office in Carman, Man.

“We had a question about soybeans coming off at … 22 percent (moisture). That’s kind of off the charts … but there are guidelines of how to aerate and dry your soybeans (for moisture content) as high as 19 percent.”

However, it is the middle of October and there will be few days over the next four to six weeks that will be warm enough for aerating soybeans.

“The moisture-holding capacity of air is reduced at lower air temperatures,” says a North Dakota State University website on drying soybeans.

“As average air temperatures drop below 40 F (4 C) natural-air drying becomes inefficient and not economical. Adding heat causes the beans on the bottom of the bin to dry to a lower moisture content and would increase drying speed only slightly.”

Ken Hellevang, an NDSU ag engineer, said drying soybeans in the spring may be a better option.

Growers could cool the soybeans to between – 7 and -1 C for winter storage and complete the natural-air drying in the spring. Start drying in the spring when outdoor temperatures are averaging about 6 C.

Several American universities have web pages on storing and drying soybeans, including https://blog-crop-news.extension.umn.edu/2018/10/storing-drying-and-handling-wet-soybeans.html and https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/newsreleases/2019/oct-6-2019/soybean-drying-storage-could-be-challenging

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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