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Preparing for Soybeans in 2018

By: Dale Risula, PAg, Provincial Specialist, Special Crops

Soybean seeded area has realized significant growth in Canada since 2000. The acres have more than doubled and the drive is being led by increases in western Canada. Manitoba has seen more than a 3,000 per cent increase during that time. Saskatchewan growers more than doubled their seeded area from approximately 250,000 acres in 2016 to more than 800,000 this year.

The interest in soybean production is strong and likely to continue. Therefore it is important to consider what cropping practices are necessary to ensure success in growing soybeans in our province. Soybean is a plant that requires good moisture and sufficient heat units to yield well. The time to mature is also important, as current varieties require approximately 120 days before being ready for harvest.

The following are some ideas and research findings to consider when growing soybeans in 2018.

First of all, check out the insurance coverage for soybean in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) has a map detailing where coverage extends in the province. Not all areas are covered; however, there may be other options available. You should check with your SCIC agent to find out more about soybean coverage.

Soybean plots
Plots showing soybeans with seed applied plus
2X granular inoculant (left) vs only seed applied
inoculant (right)
Second, choose the right variety for your area. The Ministry of Agriculture produces the annual publication Varieties of Grain Crops, which contains pertinent information regarding how different varieties have performed in the variety trials held across the province over the years. In Saskatchewan, the ‘000’ and ‘00’ maturity groups have good yield potential; however, also look at the disease resistance traits and herbicide options. Currently, all varieties in the booklet are glyphosate tolerant.

Fertility is the next factor to consider. Most growers double inoculate their soybeans with a seed applied and an ‘in furrow’ application of rhizobium bacteria. The soybean rhizobium bacteria Bradyrhizobium are not indigenous to our soils, so it is necessary to ensure their livelihood with good populations. It is thought that this practice ought to continue for at least five rotations of soybean on any particular soil in Saskatchewan. Bradyrhizobium japonicum is the correct strain of rhizobium required for soybean.

Approximately, 50 to 80 per cent of the nitrogen (N) fertility is through biological fixation. This amount depends on the inoculation/nodulation success, environmental conditions, available N in the soil and nutrients available in the soil, especially phosphorus (P). Check for nodule formation around plant stages V2 or V3. There should be at least five active nodules formed on the roots for sufficient N fixation to occur.

Phosphorus is very important to root health and development in soybeans; however, application rates are usually much less than actual P removal by the soybean crop. Additionally, research has found that these legumes usually prefer inherent P in the soil as opposed to that applied in the growing year. Ensure your P levels are built up in previous crops in your rotation ahead of your soybean crop. Potassium is also important, so soil testing is highly recommended before planting soybeans. See Table 1 for recommendations suitable for soybeans.

Table 1: Ideal Fertility of Soybean Field


Suggested Level



< 50lbs.*



10-20 ppm Olsen



> 120 ppm



< 0.5 mmhos/cm



< 2.5 %

*Especially important for first-time fields

Soybeans have shown sensitivity to saline conditions and soils high in carbonates. If your soils are prone to these conditions, consider choosing other fields.

Soybean should be planted about 1 to 1.5 inches deep (2.54 to 3.8 cm) in warm soils with minimal residue. Seedlings are sensitive to imbibing cold water during germination, so the recommended soil temperature for seeding soybean is 10 C. Soybeans require lots of moisture, so choose fields with sufficient moisture and check your herbicide history to make sure you aren’t seeding into soybean-sensitive residues. The optimum economic plant stand for soybeans is approximately 160,000 plants/acre (4 plants/sq. ft.). You have to use different seeding rates depending on whether you use a planter or air drill to seed, because the seed survivability between the two varies. To target 160,000 plants, the seed drill must be calibrated to seed 210,000 to 220,000 seeds per acre. The planter should be calibrated to seed 190,000 to 200,000 seeds per acre. The seeding rate may be altered depending on economics of seed cost and production. Research from Manitoba shows that soybeans yielded best in crop rotations following wheat or canola.

Soybean seedlings are not very competitive, so early weed control is imperative. Weed control is recommended from emergence up to V3. This is the Critical Weed Free Period that should be followed closely to ensure you have a healthy competitive crop. During this time, weeds are small and herbicide efficacy is higher. Perhaps the most bothersome weed in soybean production is volunteer HT, although kochia is also a major problem.  If the volunteer canola is glyphosate resistant, growers need to tank-mix glyphosate with a registered broadleaf herbicide at both the pre-seed and in-crop application timings. Numerous herbicide options are available, and you should choose the proper herbicides to deal with your weed problems. Remember to rotate herbicides based on their modes of action or group number. Check the most current Ministry of Agriculture Guide to Crop Protection for more information. Residual herbicides that may cause injury to your soybean include chlopyralid, metsulfuron and dicamba (note: there are new registered varieties of soybean tolerant to dicamba herbicide). Refer to the article Herbicide Carryover in Dry Conditions 2017  to determine if you are at increased risk of residual herbicides.

Investment in research on soybean will help to find suitable varieties and agronomics that will provide growers with consistency required for crop choices in Saskatchewan. For more information see the Ministry of Agriculture’s Soybean Production in Saskatchewan webpage.

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