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Research and Technology Contributing to Increased Soybean Acres in Alberta (PCN Fall 2014) SEP 25 2014 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Soybeans have been steadily increasing on the radar for producers over the last number of years. In the past five years, we have seen an increase in acres from less than 20 in 2006 to more than 8,000 in 2013, and that number has increased again in 2014.

Incorporating alternative, high-value crops into one’s cropping rotation is always on the minds of those who recognize the opportunity to participate in new markets. While not a crop traditionally grown in our province, soybean acreage has been steadily increasing with marked jumps in the last two years.

Despite being a warm-season crop, producers from the north to south of Alberta are experimenting with managing and growing soybeans. The requirement for high heat units has proven to be the major impediment to adoption of soybeans as an alternative crop for Alberta. However, in the last few years there has been rapid genetic improvement by numerous breeding institutions across the world. These advances have made shorter season varieties available to growers who more consistently produce a harvestable crop. While non-GMO soybeans are grown in Ontario, the majority of prairie acres are founded on herbicide tolerant technology.

Dupont-Pioneer Ltd. has estimated that with the release of new Round-up Ready 2 varieties, acreage in Alberta could reach 120,000 ha by 2017 and double that by 2020.

“DuPont Pioneer has made a strong corporate commitment to the development, for the producers of Western Canada, of ultra-early maturity soybeans, as well as ultra-early maturing corn,” said Dave Harwood, Manager of Technical Services for DuPont Pioneer in Canada. “A research and product development initiative currently being spearheaded from Carman, Manitoba leverages the Pioneer soybean experience globally, and is targeting the development of early 00 and 000 soybeans tailored to Alberta’s growing conditions. Very good progress is being made, and it is anticipated this will deliver a portfolio of commercial products in the years ahead, thereby creating additional profitable options for crop rotation for Alberta’s producers.”

Alberta soybeans are currently processed out of province, but there are a few brokers that purchase locally grown product. As production increases, the potential for buyers and processors to include soybeans will greatly improve.

Dr. Manjula Bandara, an Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development researcher located in Brooks, has been experimenting with soybeans for the last decade and feels that there is sufficient potential for the crop to succeed in the province, particularly in Southern Alberta. He has recently been granted funding for a research study to more precisely define the best management practices for growing soybeans under irrigated and dryland systems.

In order to be competitive in the global market, advanced genotypes and superior agronomic practices for our local environment need to be identified. Bandara’s work will evaluate low heat unit lines of soybeans in conjunction with planting densities, nodulation, water requirements and the economics of growing soybeans as compared with other commonly grown crops in Southern Alberta. The project will span four growing seasons at multiple locations to ensure that a variety of conditions are included in the analysis of the data collected, which will strengthen the recommendations that flow from this research.

Additional research on soybeans is focused on root diseases and housed within the Pulse Science Cluster, a federal grant program that facilitates inter-provincial research. While this particular project is led by a research team in Manitoba, associates are conducting field surveys in Saskatchewan and Alberta soybean fields as well to ensure a complete survey of the disease challenges in seedling soybeans are identified.

For the past two years, soybean varieties have also been included in the Regional Variety Trials at 10 locations across the province. This allows companies to grow varieties of their choice to assess suitability and performance under a number of soil, moisture and temperature conditions. The data that is collected from these trials, along with similar information for pea, lentil, and faba beans, are published annually and available through Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, as well as

Different Results Across Province

“The opportunity to travel across the province every summer and participate in crop tours and field days has allowed me to visually assess the growth of soybeans across the province,” said Alberta Pulse Growers’ Research Officer Jenn Walker. “There are very marked differences in growth and development from south to north and the importance of heat and moisture is very evident. Producers need to carefully assess the suitability of this crop as an alternative.”

A Quick Guide to Growing Soybeans…

  • Currently available varieties require about 2,300 heat units. Keep this in mind when thinking if your area is suited to growing this crop!
  • Soybeans require double inoculation – plan for this well in advance of seeding
  • Do not plant until soil temperature is 10 degrees Celsius (as a general rule of thumb between May 10 and 25), similar to other pulse crops seed treatment is highly recommended to protect seedlings from soil pathogens. Seeding depth should be between 3/4 and 1 1/2”
  • Soybeans are a warm season crop – in our cool climate they seem to grow quite slowly especially early on – once they start flowering they pod quite quickly (heat is a necessary component, soybeans like 25 – 28 even 30 degree days)
  • Soybeans are not a drought tolerant crop – they require sufficient moisture (as well as heat to perform to their potential) growing on sandy soils is not recommended
  • Approximately two weeks after the leaves fall off the plants, harvest can commence when plant and pods are brown and seeds rattle inside pods, soybeans are easily straight cut, storage is recommended when grain is 14% moisture but combining can begin at 20%