Soybean choice explodes for Manitoba farmers

ST. JEAN BAPTISTE, Man. — Manitoba soybeans have moved into version 2.0, but many growers are still so new to the newish crop that they haven’t necessarily realized it yet.

Manitoba Agriculture farm production specialist Terry Buss told farmers here that he is often asked what soybean variety “is the best,” and that is no longer a question that can be answered.

So few soybean varieties were fit for Manitoba a few years ago that most areas had only one or two safe varieties. 

Now there can be dozens, similar to other crops.

“There are a lot of varieties and a lot of good ones,” Buss said.

“A lot of growers (until recently) tended to be growing similar varieties in an area. One variety would have a huge market because there weren’t too many choices.”

He said it means farmers need to decide what attributes they most want in their soybeans, rather than looking for one simple default variety that will be best for them. All sorts of attributes and seed treatments are available, but no variety is going to contain everything. Farmers need to decide what they want and then research it.

“A seed is not just a seed,” said Buss.

The evolution of soybeans in Manitoba has been stunning, going from almost none less than 20 years ago to 1.6 million acres in 2016 to an expectation of more than two million acres in a few years.

That evolution has not only forced farmers to learn how to grow an unfamiliar crop, it has required the development of varieties that can deal with Manitoba’s comparatively short growing season.

Most varieties were originally developed in the warmer, longer season of the U.S. Midwest, so pushing them up to the forest fringe has been a challenge for variety developers.

However, they have met that challenge much more easily than many expected with soybeans spreading up and out of the Red River Valley and onto the Great Plains.

Buss said he almost drove his truck into the ditch one day when driving at the upper extreme of the Red River Valley area near Beausejour. It was August and a field of soybean plants was browning and dropping its leaves. He thought there was something wrong with the crop, but the only problem with it was that it had such a short maturity that it was already turning. 

“We actually have varieties that mature that early now,” said Buss.

Farmers need to understand that they now have many more choices when choosing to grow soybeans, so picking a variety is no longer such an easy decision.

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