Soybean production has rapidly expanded in Manitoba in the past few years and there is increasing interest in Saskatchewan and Alberta. If you can successfully grow soybean, it is a great crop to include in your rotation and farm management program.
Stephanie Kowalski, an independent agronomist for Agronomy Advantage, says that because of the drought this past growing season, many agronomists had to help their customers mitigate further stress in soybeans, whether that was from pests, fungus-related diseases or building base fertility. Kowalski recently spoke at the 2017 Southwest Ag Conference in Ridgetown, Ont., where she was asked to share her three key lessons from 2016.

Besides the lack of rain in Ontario, one of the major players for soybean stress was the presence of spider mites. The most important factor to keep in mind for mites is to scout for them, since drought-stress holes can look very similar to spider mite damage. Once farmers notice stippling and discoloured patches, it’s important to take care of them as soon as possible.

“Spider mites are not an aphid pest, where you would wait for the threshold to build and then you take action,” Kowalski says. “You have to continually assess it and make an action decision because they won’t go away.”

She also says many agronomists thought aphids would be the big problem for growers due to the hot and dry year, which just goes to show that it can be difficult to predict pest problems from year to year.

With spider mites, Kowalski says it’s important to spray a dimethoate like Cygon or Lagon, and avoid a pyrethroid (like Matador) since it will also take out the predatory mites, increasing the spider mite pressure.

The second factor that came into soybean management this year had to do with fungicides. “Weather is only one factor of the fungicide decision,” Kowalski says. “Just because it’s a dry year, I wouldn’t write out a fungicide [prescription].”

Growers and agronomists should be looking at history (of white mould for example), row spacing and emergent population. Again, getting out and seeing what’s already in the field is important, since every year brings a different challenge.

“Proactively scouting and managing the crop throughout the growing season is never a bad idea,” Kowalski says. “Even if the growing conditions are ideal, scouting can be a very useful tool to identify ways to maximize yields economically.”

Don’t forget about the disease history of your fields either: If a field had soybeans or even canola previously, there is a likelihood that sclerotinia (the hard black bodies created by the white mould fungi) will be present following a diseased year and cause infection in that subsequent soybean crop.

Base fertility and soil health also play a role in mitigating stress in soybeans, especially in a drought year. The more soil organic matter available, the better the water retention, which helps limit drought stress due to the availability of moisture to those crops. Good fertility also means strong early season root growth and adequate nutrient levels in the root zones, resulting in more efficient water use, better nutrient uptake and less of a chance of deficiencies and stress. Early data shows managing phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) levels in soil at higher background levels has led to a good response in crops versus the current recommendations (sufficiency approach) that were established more than 30 years ago, when yields were lower.

Every year brings a different challenge for soybeans and other crops: 2014 was a terrible white mould year, 2015 had significant spring frost events and aphids and 2016 was a droughty year, so proactively scouting and managing the crop throughout the growing season is never a bad idea, Kowalski says. “Even if the growing conditions are ideal, scouting can be a very useful tool to identify ways to maximize yields economically.”
Soybean breeders continue to focus on early maturing soybean hybrids and bring myriad stacked traits to Western Canadian growers. Seed companies have supplied Top Crop Manager with the following information on the new soybean hybrids for 2017. Growers are advised to check local performance trials to help with their variety selections. Listing is by crop heat unit (CHU)/maturity rating.
2016 was a year of extremes for Ontario soybean growers. Incredibly dry conditions in some regions resulted in poor yields or total crop failures in the most extreme cases. In contrast, a dry spring with few diseases, followed by timely rainfall in August resulted in amazingly high yields in parts of southwestern Ontario. Soybean yields are notoriously difficult to predict before harvest so much of the industry was pleasantly surprised at these good yields considering the growing season. Field averages of over 70 bu/ac were reported and yield monitors pushed over 100 bu/ac in the best part of some fields. Current estimates have the provincial average for 2016 at 44.8 bu/ac (with 56 per cent of the reports in from insured growers). This is slightly above the 10 year average of 43.9 bu/ac for those growers. The five year average for the province is 46.6 bu/ac. Soybeans are by far the largest field crop grown in the province with 2.715 million acres seeded in 2016. This was the third largest soybean crop in history. 2014 was the largest at 3.06 million and 2015 had 2.90 million acres. 

Higher yields result in greater nutrient removal. Although soybeans take up almost twice as much potassium (K) as phosphorus, both nutrients are essential for soybeans. Factors that limit root growth such as dry conditions and sidewall compaction will reduce uptake. Under dry conditions, roots are unable to take up K from the soil even if soil K levels are sufficient. A soil test is the only reliable way to know if a field is truly low in K or just showing stress-induced potash deficiencies. It’s also important to note that K deficiency symptoms may be an indication of soybean cyst nematode (SCN) feeding on the roots. When taking soil samples, ask the lab to also test for SCN. A spring or fall application with incorporation work equally well to feed soybeans if soil tests warrant fertilizer.

The micronutrient manganese (Mn) is also critical for soybeans. Large parts of Ontario’s main soybean growing areas are deficient in Mn. Symptoms of Mn deficiency is interveinal chlorosis (yellowing). One of the most significant factors affecting the availability of Mn is the soil pH. As soil pH increases, less Mn is available to the plant. Deficiencies may occur on eroded knolls where the pH is higher than the rest of the field. The deficiency is most common on poorly-drained soils, especially on clays and silt loams. High organic matter also ties up Mn. Since only small amounts of Mn are required by the plant, a foliar application of Mn works well to rectify the deficiency. In severe cases, a spray application can provide a five or more bu/ac yield response.

Seedcorn maggot
Seedcorn maggot was more of a problem this spring than usual. Seedcorn maggots feed on germinating corn and soybean seeds and young seedlings. Damage can range from minor feeding which delays emergence to seed death. Seedlings that do survive are often severely weakened and may not fully recover. Seedcorn maggot numbers are impossible to predict but a mild winter likely increased populations in the spring of 2016. Maggot feeding results in hallowed out seed with small dark channeling. Flies are attracted to the odour of decaying organic matter that has recently been incorporated, such as freshly tilled soils, decaying plant residue, lightly tilled cover crops, and manured fields. The eggs are laid in moist soil and once hatched begin to feed on germinating seeds. For growers that consistently experience seedcorn maggot damage, an insecticide seed treatment is the only reliable control option. It’s also important to note that treated seed may not give complete protection under extreme insect pressure so higher seeding rates should also be used.

Spider mites
In dry years, some pests proliferate quickly. Spider mite damage was widespread this August. Mites feed on individual plant cells from the underside of leaves leaving stipples. Severe stippling causes yellowing, curling and bronzing of leaves. Spider mites usually start on the edge of the field but wind can carry them to any part of the field. From the road these pockets may look like moisture stress. Fields that are close to neighboring winter wheat stubble, hay fields and no-till fields are more at risk. Foliar insecticide applications were necessary on significant aces this year.

Double cropped soybeans
A number of growers were able to achieve 35 to 40 bu/ac this year, when seeding after winter wheat harvest. One of the reasons double copping is becoming more successful now than 20 years ago is due to higher yielding short season varieties. Plant breeding efforts for northern climates, especially western Canada have resulted in better short season varieties that can be seeded later in the growing season.  Fields planted after July 15th or fields that remained extremely dry throughout the growing season were generally not successful. 

Variety selection
Soybean variety selection continues to be one of the most important management decisions a grower can make to achieve high yield. The Ontario Soybean and Canola committee conducts performance trials each year across the province. Results from these trials can be found at Within a single test yield differences of over 10 bu/ac between varieties are not uncommon. Longer maturing varieties yield significantly more than shorter maturing varieties in most regions. Generally, longer maturing varieties yield 0.4 to 1.0 bu/ac more for each day they take longer to mature in the fall. For fields not intended for winter wheat seeding selecting a longer season variety is a cost effective way to increase yields.
In a year like 2016, when sclerotinia stem rot was widespread in canola, the expectation might be that the disease (called white mould in soybean) could have been problematic in soybean as well. Not so, says Dennis Lange, industry development specialist for pulses with Manitoba Agriculture in Altona, Man.
A University of Manitoba study is generating some surprising results about soil temperatures and soybean planting dates.
In 2016, soybean production in Manitoba reached a high of 1.6 million acres. This significant increase is partly due to the introduction of early-maturing soybean varieties that have expanded production to “non-traditional” growing areas. However, frost and near-freezing temperatures in spring and fall still remain a risk for soybean growers in Manitoba.
The Ontario Soybean and Canola Committee has released results from the 2016 Ontario Soybean Variety Trials. | READ MORE
Researchers at the University of Illinois have discovered soybeans produce more leaves than needed, which is detrimental to yield. The group says this problem will only get worse with rising atmospheric carbon dioxide. | READ MORE
Soybeans were the star this year as Ontario’s harvest finished amid ideal conditions. Despite a distressingly dry start, many parts of Southwestern Ontario saw record soybean yields and decent corn yields. | READ MORE
Sept. 15, 2016 - An eight-year study of soybeans grown outdoors in a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere like that expected by 2050 has yielded a new and worrisome finding: Higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations will boost plant growth under ideal growing conditions, but drought – expected to worsen as the climate warms and rainfall patterns change – will outweigh those benefits and cause yield losses much sooner than anticipated.

The new discovery, reported in the journal Nature Plants, contradicts a widely accepted hypothesis about how climate change will affect food production, said University of Illinois plant biology professor Andrew Leakey, who led the new research.

“If you read the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and if you read the scientific literature on the subject for the last 30 years, the concluding statement is nearly always that elevated carbon dioxide will ameliorate drought stress in crops,” Leakey says. | READ MORE.

Moisture-stressed soybeans
Most fields are now in the R2 (full flower) to R3 (beginning pod) growth stage. Vegetative growth has been highly dependent on the amount of rainfall in a given region. Moisture stress and leaf yellowing is evident in many fields. Soybeans flower over an extended period of time giving the crop the capacity to recover from early season moisture stress. Large yield losses do not generally occur unless moisture stress continues into the R4 (full pod) growth stage. This is only true if adequate plant stands are present. If stands are thin, or plants are suffering from other issues, losses will occur earlier. Weather conditions over the next four to five weeks will be crucial to seed development and will play a bigger role in final yield than the first half of the growing season. Dry conditions will amplify nutrient deficiency symptoms, insect feeding, and disease symptoms. When plants are already stressed it’s even more important to manage deficiencies wherever possible.

Manganese (Mn) and potash (K) deficiency are widespread this year. These two nutrient deficiencies have unique leaf symptoms. K deficient leaves turn yellow along the leaf margins while Mn deficient leaves turn yellow across the whole leaf except for the veins which remain green (picture #2). Factors that limit root growth such as dry conditions and sidewall compaction will reduce K uptake. Under dry conditions roots are unable to take up K from the soil even if soil K levels are sufficient. A soil test is the only reliable way to know if a field is truly low in K or only showing stress-induced potash deficiencies. It’s also important to note that K deficiency symptoms may indicate soybean cyst nematode (SCN) feeding on the roots.  When taking soil samples ask the lab to also test for SCN. It’s difficult to alleviate K deficiency now since foliar products cannot supply enough K through the leaf tissue to rectify the problem. A dry application of potash on later planted fields may still be warranted in severe cases. Yield response will depend on the amount of rainfall after application.

Symptoms of Mn deficiency are interveinal chlorosis (yellowing). Mn is immobile in the plant so symptoms will generally appear on the younger leaves first. One of the most significant factors affecting the availability of Mn is the soil pH. As soil pH increases less Mn is available to the plant. Deficiencies can also appear on eroded knolls where the pH is higher than the rest of the field. The deficiency is most common on poorly-drained soils, especially clays and silt loams. High organic matter also ties up Mn. Manganese is less soluble in well-aerated soils; and is the reason why in compacted areas (wheel tracks) a dark green colour may remain while the rest of the field becomes symptomatic. A foliar application of Mn works well to rectify the deficiency and can provide a 5 to 8 bu/ac yield response in severe cases.

In dry years insects often proliferate quickly. To date spider mite damage has been limited, but field scouting will be important especially if conditions remain dry. Mites feed on individual plant cells from the underside of leaves leaving stipples. Severe stippling causes yellowing, curling and bronzing of leaves. Damage is most severe under hot dry conditions. Spider mites usually start on the edge of the field but wind can carry them to any part of the field. From the road these pockets may look like moisture stress. Fields that are close to neighboring winter wheat stubble, hay fields and no-till fields are more at risk. To verify mites, take yellow leaves and put them over a white piece of paper and then shake the mites off the leaf. Small mites will be visible crawling on the piece of paper. They are only about one millimetre in length so a hand lens may be required. Four or more mites per leaflet or one severely damaged leaf per plant prior to pod fill indicates that control is required.

Soybean aphids have only been reported in a few fields to date. Soybean aphid populations above threshold numbers (250 aphids per plant with increasing numbers) will cause yield losses until the R6 (full seed) growth stage. Soybean aphid management is essential in dry years since yield losses are highest when plants are already stressed.

June 7, 2016 - Syngenta Canada Inc. is launching three new, proprietary soybean varieties, offering growers in Western Canada more high-performing options as soybean acres continue to expand.

S001-B1, S003-L3 and S006-W5 are high-yielding Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield varieties bred for growers looking to increase their overall yield potential and reduce risk by seeding soybeans with different relative maturities.

"Growers want to see consistent performance year in and year out from their soybeans, and the key to getting consistent yields in Western Canada is early maturing varieties," explains Nick Cowan, field product specialist with Syngenta Canada. "These three new varieties are bred to consistently deliver high yields and strong disease tolerance in early maturity geographies."

S001-B1 is an early maturing, medium-tall plant best suited to the early double zero (00) maturity zones across the Prairies. It offers great standability for strong emergence, consistent yields and easy harvestability, along with excellent iron deficiency chlorosis (IDC) tolerance and good white mould tolerance. S001-B1 also contains the Rps1c gene for Phytophthora root rot with very good field tolerance.

S003-L3 is a medium- to short-height plant best suited to the early 00 maturity zones in western Manitoba and Saskatchewan. This variety's unique genetic characteristics include a narrow lancelet leaf shape as well as top pod clusters that provide a late season boost to yields in ideal growing conditions.

S003-L3 features a strong disease package that includes IDC tolerance, good white mould tolerance and the Rps6 gene for managing Phytophthora root rot. S003-L3 has also displayed strong performance in narrow row widths with excellent harvestability.

The third new variety is S006-W5, a medium-height plant that is well suited to the highly productive soils found in the mid to late 00 maturity zones of Manitoba's traditional soybean growing areas. S006-W5 demonstrated top-end yield potential in the 2015 Manitoba Crop Variety Evaluation Team (MCVET) public trials, where it yielded 10 per cent above the industry check. S006-W5 also features excellent harvestability and the unique Rps1a and Rps3a gene stack for excellent Phytophthora root rot protection.

The three new varieties will be entering research and public trials this growing season and be made available for sale in fall 2016 for 2017 seeding.


May 19, 2016, Ontario – Canola acreage is up in southern Ontario and spring cereals are off to a good start, according to the latest field crop report from OMAFRA. 

Across the province the planted corn acreage sits at about 85 per cent. Livestock producers with manure to apply, as well as fields located on heavy clay soils – especially in Essex, Haldimand and Niagara – have about 50 per cent of the intended acres planted. Soil conditions look dry at the surface, but remain “tacky” at planting depth. Cool soil temperatures have delayed emergence. Planted corn is taking about three weeks to emerge, and growers are scouting for impacts from insects and/or disease to un-emerged seed. (See Field Crop News article to assist in Stand Loss Assessments for Ontario’s Neonic Regulations) Recent rains, ranging from 10 to 50 millimetres, have not resulted in concerns for emergence due to crusting.

Winter wheat crops continue to impress. The growth stage of wheat ranges from Zodak 32 to 37 (2nd node to flag leaf). Disease levels remain low and limited mainly to the lower canopy. Reports of septoria, stripe and leaf rust have been limited; however scouting will occur to monitor disease progression when seasonal temperatures return. Cool conditions will result in a shorter crop with less risk of lodging than originally expected.

Sulphur deficiency is apparent in many wheat and rye fields. There are several reasons we could be seeing more deficiency this spring, including lower industrial sulphur emissions and cooler temperatures that have slowed the response from applied ammonium Thio-Sul and potassium Thio-Sul.

Fusarium head blight risk may be higher this year as a result of the weather conditions. The cool conditions may result in delayed spore dispersal this year which may correspond to the critical wheat heading stage. Growers are advised to scout their fields, note variety susceptibility, weather forecast and DONcast to best co-ordinate need for FHB fungicide application at flowering.

Winter rye is beginning to head and spring cereals have emerged uniformly and are off to a good start.

Soybean planting in underway with about 15 to 20 per cent of soybeans planted. Forecast frost and snow halted weekend planting to reduce potential of cold water impact on seedling emergence and vigour. Burndown treatments are being applied, especially where Canada fleabane pressure is high. The best method for controlling glyphosate resistant Canada fleabane is to control it before the soybeans are planted to within three days of emergence. Where Canada fleabane is 20 to 30 centimetres tall (eight to 12 inches), a high water volume of 20 gallons is encouraged to get adequate coverage. Growers who plant soybeans without a burndown will have limited options for control.

Cereal rye planted as forage as well as some old alfalfa stands have been cut and harvested and will be planted to corn or soybeans. Alfalfa hay harvest for dairy producers on a 4-cut rotation will begin next week. Crop growth has been slower than average due to cool conditions, but stands look uniform and thick with very little winter damage. 

Nearly all canola is in the ground, except for some in the New Liskeard area. Most has already emerged and is looking good, with the hopes that frosts earlier this week were not an issue. Acres of canola in Ontario are about 20 per cent higher than last year. Producers increased acreage with the good planting conditions and strong price. Most of the additional acres are in the canola growing regions in the southern half of Ontario, where the risk of swede midge has historically been lower.

Weed control
Cool night temperatures and high winds have made weed control a challenge. 

Fleabane, both Canada and annual types, are present in high numbers. Not all is confirmed as glyphosate resistant, but producers are treating it as if it is. Glyphosate and Group 2 resistant Canada fleabane has now been confirmed in Bruce and Grey counties. 

Waterhemp samples have been collected in Lambton-Kent-Essex and all were resistant to group 2 herbicides, while more than 70 per cent of the samples were also resistant to triazines and glyphosate. Just under half the samples had a three-way resistance to group 2, 5 and 9 herbicides. Group 14 and 27 herbicides are good options for control.

May 13, 2016 – Corn planting varies across the province, and many growers have not yet planted soybeans, according to the latest field crop report from OMAFRA.

Corn planting progress varies as you move across the province. The southwestern part of the province and the Niagara area has been cool and wet and the clay soils are less than 20 per cent planted. Throughout much of the rest of the province conditions have been much more favourable with 60 to 80 per cent of the intended acres planted. Cool temperatures, especially at night, have kept soil temperatures low slowing corn germination. In many fields the corn has sprouted but not emerged after two weeks. Herbicide applications are delayed due to slow corn emergence.

Many growers are considering interseeding cover crops into standing corn. Ryegrass and clovers have been most successful at the 3 to 6 leaf stage of corn. To have success with this, be sure to consider your corn herbicides carefully.

The winter wheat crop continues to look good. Disease levels remain low. Stripe rust in wheat has been detected in London and soil-borne mosaic virus was found near Ridgetown. Clover stands are sporadic and most areas do not have a good stand, possibly because of frost in April. There is hope that it may just be slow coming out of the ground because of the cold weather.

There are very few annual weeds being reported in the winter wheat. For the most part herbicide applications are not being recommended because the wheat is advanced to a point where weeds are not impacting yield. There is some benefit to controlling weeds before seed set (spray now or after harvest), or to improve ease of harvest. If the flag leaf is visible a herbicide will cause more harm than good. When you can feel the 3rd node at about an inch above the 2nd node, the leaf appearing in the whorl is the flag leaf.

If septoria or powdery mildew are moving up the plant, apply a fungicide; otherwise, if Fusarium is a concern, apply at flowering.‎ Continue to scout for other diseases as well, such as stripe rust and leaf rust.

Soil tests are showing low sulphur levels and sulphur deficiencies are appearing in the wheat. It is not as obvious on warmer days, but the patchy, yellowing areas are evident during cool weather. Sulphur deficiency looks like nitrogen deficiency and appears first on eroded knolls. Conduct a tissue test to confirm, or use a hand spray bottle and apply some K2Os or calcium sulphate; if you flag it and come back in 3 to 4 days it should have greened up if there is a deficiency.

Many have not started planting soybeans yet, so only about five to 10 per cent of the acres are planted, although some areas are up to 20 per cent. Soybeans should be planted into moisture, but at this time of year the planting depth should be kept relatively shallow (1-1.5 inches) if possible. Also, keep in mind that seed vigor can be impacted if planting is followed by a cold rain within the first 12-48 hours after planting. The seed is vulnerable when it first takes on moisture, and if that first few hours of moisture uptake is very cold you can see reduced seedling emergence and vigor. If the ground is fit and the two-day forecast is decent then now is the time to plant. Planting date studies have shown that early planted beans usually yield more than later planted fields.

Reports of winter kill on forage stands remain low and are not expected to rise although with the cool weather the growth to date has been slow, so more cases may arise in the next couple of weeks. The slow growth may delay first cut dairy haylage. Where damage has been reported, it is small patches of usually low ground in fields as opposed to losing a whole field. As growth begins in earnest, scout for poor areas of the field and cut those crowns and roots open to look for white healthy tissue. Assess stands on a whole field basis.

Planting progress for canola continues to be slow due to poor weather conditions.

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