Canadian IP soybean producers are competitive globally
By Top Crop Manager
Identity-preserved (IP) soybeans are a growing market for Canadian farmers. Three-quarters of Canadian soybean exports to Asia are now classified as identity preserved (IP), with the identity and origin of the crop tracked from farms in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Prince Edward Island, all the way to the finished food products. And Canadian soybean producers have demonstrated that they are skilled at both growing IP soybeans and adapting to market changes.
IP soybeans command a premium in the global marketplace because of the more intensive management practices required to grow them. Understanding the factors that influence global demand can help growers choose the right variety. Practising good weed control can help protect the value of the crop and the management investment.
A buyer’s perspective
According to Marty Huzevka, IP soybean marketing manager for Hensall District Co-operative (HDC) in Hensall, Ontario, the place for IP growers to begin is by understanding how consumer preferences for tofu, miso, natto and soy milk drive demand for individual IP soybean varieties. HDC is a diversified farmer-owned agricultural co-operative that has its finger on the pulse of the market; it sells high-quality edible beans and food-grade soybeans to more than 40 countries. “Working with exporters to understand what characteristics consumers are looking for in end products, and how and why preferences change, can help growers maintain Canada’s leadership in the world IP soybean market,” Huzevka says. “This can help growers choose the most profitable varieties for their farm in any given season.”
“Protein levels, for example, are always critical,” explains Huzevka. “IP growers need to understand end-user specifications and choose varieties that balance global needs with local soil and cropping conditions. Producer support in supplying documentation is important too, as it is key to traceability and food safety.
If a customer requests an IP product, the contract will include the protocols required under the Canadian Identity Preserved Recognition System (CIPRS), which is operated by the Canadian Grain Commission. CIPRS is a rigorous, fully traceable program that covers all aspects of soybean production and processing from seed to export.”
For more information on the CIPRS program, visit www.grainscanada.gc.ca .
A premium on good management
Premiums paid for IP can add as much as $2.25 to $2.50 per bushel to a grower’s price, depending on the season and the price on the Chicago Board of Trade. According to Jim Gowland, chairman of the Canadian Soybean Council, growers should view premiums as a consistent “return-to-management” for the production and storage of an IP soybean crop year-in and year-out, regardless of the strength of the crusher market. “IP soybean production is a long-term commitment by Canada’s soybean producers because of the capital investment required to grow and handle an IP crop,” Gowland says. “Being consistently rewarded for management skill and capital investments will be key to the long-term viability of the Canadian IP soybean industry as a leading source of high-quality protein for the world market.”
Gowland has represented the Canadian soybean industry on numerous incoming and outgoing international programs since the mid-2000s. He adds that one of the challenges facing the Canadian IP soybean industry today is the development of new non-genetically modified (non-GMO) varieties. “It can take up to 10 years to establish a new variety,” Gowland explains. “It’s difficult for researchers to predict end-user needs that far out. That’s why we include researchers in our export market development activities to help them acquire the information they need to identify desirable varieties to meet future demand.”
Weed control key to successful IP production
According to HDC crop retail manager Jim Barclay, weed control can be a challenge with non-GMO IP soybean varieties, and producers should develop strategies on a field-by-field basis. “Crop rotation is an important consideration,” Barclay says. “Growers can take the pressure off their IP soybean herbicide program by effectively controlling weeds in the previous crop.”
Herbicide rotation and using multiple modes of action, can help to reduce the risk of herbicide-resistant weeds. This ensures that products available for IP soybean production remain effective.
For IP soybean producers, early-season weed control is critical, particularly if growers have a problem with a weed such as eastern black nightshade in their fields. According to Andrew Elgersma, market manager for eastern herbicides for BASF Canada, applying a residual grass herbicide such as Frontier Max (dimethenamid-P) will not only help reduce the incidence of grass escapes but nightshade as well. “Nightshade is one weed that produces berries that can stain the soybean and downgrade its quality, leaving the grower with no premium,” Elgersma says. “The addition of Frontier Max to existing core soybean offerings like Conquest LQ and Clean Sweep is a great way to effectively control weeds in an IP soybean crop, including Group 2-resistant nightshade. Conquest LQ can be applied with Frontier Max pre-plant incorporated, or pre-emergent. In a Clean Sweep program, where a grower is applying his herbicide post-emergent, Frontier Max should be applied pre-emergent, followed by Clean Sweep, for control of a broad spectrum of grass and broadleaf weeds, including ragweed, velvetleaf, foxtail and nightshade.”
Canadian IP soybean growers are leaders in the global market for food-grade soybeans. They understand the value of tailoring variety selection to meet shifting consumer demands, can provide “farm-to-fork” traceability, and are able to manage unique weed control challenges, as well as herbicide resistance, in a conventional (non-GMO) environment. Continuing collaboration among growers, exporters, plant breeders and herbicide manufacturers will help to maintain Canada’s leadership in this important market and allow producers to continue to reap the benefits of IP premiums.