Crop Rotation Can Keep Pesticide Costs Down
Revival, Laura Rance Rural, Winnipeg Free Press
Move over canola. Manitoba has a new wonder crop. Some are even calling it the new Cinderella on the province's farmscape.
Soybeans officially snuck into third place behind canola and wheat as the crop seeded to the most acres in the province last summer. While at 875,000 acres, it has a long way to go before it catches up to canola at 3.5 million acres or wheat at 2.9 million acres, it is really starting to turn some heads.
Many pundits are predicting soybean acres will surge again next spring to crack the one-million-acre mark, largely at the expense of canola and edible-bean acres grown in the province.
The reasons are many, but they start with the numbers. Canola has long been touted as the crop that brings in the most cash on Manitoba farms, but once the costs of growing the crop are factored in, it isn't necessarily generating the best profits.
A comparison of variable production costs produced by NorthStar Genetics shows it costs a farmer about $114 to grow an acre of soybeans compared to $179 for canola. The gross revenue for soybeans is slightly lower, $482 per acre versus $498 for canola. But the net revenue is $50 per acre higher at $368 per acre, largely due to the fact canola is a huge consumer of nitrogen fertilizer, while soybeans are a legume that produce their own.
Besides all that, canola is looking a bit tired these days. Its yield on many Manitoba farms has been trending down, and in fact, took a big dip this year, partly due to weather, but largely due to growing it more often than the recommended one year in four on the same field. That's an open invitation to pests and diseases that overwhelm the crop's built-in genetic resistance, so farmers have to compensate with expensive fungicides and insecticides.
As a relative newcomer to the Manitoba scene, soybeans have shown themselves capable of performing well in wet conditions and equally well when it's dry.
Soybeans don't like the cold, but as the soybean and corn belt of the Northern Great Plains continues to edge northward, plant breeders have been developing better short-season varieties. As well, Manitoba has had warmer-than-usual summers in recent times. Heat units across much of agro-Manitoba this past summer, for example, were between five and 15 per cent above the historical average. …