Soybean yields recover

After three disappointing years, Manitoba soybean growers finally have something to celebrate.

Yields are better than expected in much of the province, with many growers achieving bushel per acre yields in the 40s and 50s.

“Yield reports ranged from 35 to 60 bu. per acre with many producers noting that their yield expectations were being exceeded,” Manitoba Agriculture’s Sept. 29 crop report said when describing yields in the eastern part of the province.

Cassandra Tkachuk, production specialist with Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers, has received anecdotal reports of strong yields in several regions of the province.

“More recently I’ve been hearing really good stuff — more than 50 in some fields,” she said.

“There’s a 50 bu. per acre from the Interlake … high 40s and low 50s in the west. That’s in the Hartney and Souris areas.”

The robust yields should revive enthusiasm for soybeans in the province because the crop has suffered through three years of drought and poor production.

In 2017 and 2018 soybeans produced yields in the 20s and 30s with provincial averages in the low 30s. Results were even worse last year.

A rainy September and 25 to 50 centimetres of snow in early October made it impossible to combine beans. Much of the crop was harvested in late October and November, with the provincial yield around 27 bu. per acre.

Soybean acres dropped off a cliff in Manitoba, mostly because of the anaemic yields. In 2017 the province had 2.3 million acres of beans and there was talk of acres climbing to three million.

In 2020, Manitoba growers seeded about 1.1 million acres.

Soybeans should bounce back in 2021 because strong yields combined with solid prices typically lead to more acres. Soybean futures in Chicago have been trading around US$10 per bu., or C$13.

Improved soil moisture at the beginning of the growing season was the crucial factor this summer. Most regions of Manitoba recorded less rainfall than normal during the growing season, but the reservoir of soil moisture carried the crop to harvest.

“This summer I saw some really tall beans in the central area (of Manitoba) … and I was able to find some four-bean pods,” Tkachuk said.

“I haven’t seen that actually in a few years…. I think the main driver is just better moisture this year.”

The overall mood around soybeans is upbeat, but some producers could be disappointed with their 2020 crop. A hard frost hit western Manitoba Sept. 8-9 with temperatures dipping below -3 C, which could drag down the provincial average.

“I’m curious what the yields will be from the frost-affected (beans),” Tkachuk said.

Forty-two percent of soybeans have been harvested in Manitoba, based on the Sept. 29 provincial crop report.

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