With no real previous attempts in my area to grow Soy my information was very limited. So I did some online research. This introduced me to Corn Heat Units or CHU's. This becomes very important in Soy production and limiting where they can be grown. Another factor to be considered was plant type. Some Soy grow tall and some are more of a bush type. Both have their pro's and con's. And lastly and the most difficult was where could I get some to plant.
Heat units during the growing season in Alberta are all over the place. In checking even local weather stations they can vary by 200 CHU or more. Even on my farm with land spread 14 miles apart the variances in soil type and CHU make it so the same crops cannot be grown throughout. Farmers have to consider this when choosing a non traditional crop to try out. You have to know your land and this comes from knowing your soil type and checking into your local weather station to see historic data. Not everyone can grow Soybeans .....yet.
So after a little research I started to ask around to source some seed. A local retailer helped out a lot and in late fall of 2014 things started to look promising that I would get a mini bulk bag of treated /inoculated seed. Over the winter I did more research and any time I saw someone on twitter talking about Soybean production I followed along and asked lots of questions.
April came and I started to seed my peas on about the 22nd, still no sign of the Soybeans. Started seeding malt barley on the 28th...no Soy's yet. Early May and the wheat was in and time to switch to canola. I'm a little nervous that they won't show up in time but have faith in the people I was working with. Then about 2 weeks into seeding to my relief they arrived at my retailer.
After I knew they were in I started to check the soil temperature daily in the field I call Gramma's south. This quarter was one my dad purchased to give his mother some income after his father died, hence the name. The magic number was 10 Celsius and it took until may 18th to get there. So then I watched the weekly forecast and hoped for a string of warm days. Then on May 20th I saw my window of opportunity.
I planted the Soys on May 20th using my air seeder with 10" spacing putting the seed and granular inoculant as a single shoot at a depth of 1.5". I had enough seed for 25 acres and it went in without a hitch thankfully.
Now to sit back and hope they germinate.
And they did!
and to my surprise they grew upside down. The seed sent down a shoot and the seed split in half and started to push out of the ground. I had never seen anything like it. then the two halves of the seed became the cotyledon leaves.
Then No rain for 4 weeks. It was scary but the crops all hung on during this time including the soybeans. Somehow there was enough subsoil moisture to maintain the growth. They certainly didn't thrive in this period but did not go backwards either. I was surprised they were able to handle a drought period.
Then some welcome rains in July shed some hope on the year. Maybe we could salvage some sort of a crop. I honestly expected to be on the lower end of yield on all my crops. Not like 2002(severe drought year) mind you but pretty poor.
August brought some much needed heat units and this helped the plants to develop quite nicely. Sporadic rains helped them to stay quite green and lush.
It was fun to watch the plant development during this time period. I anxiously waited to see when they would flower.
July and August were good months. Adequate rain and good heat helped the crops to develop quite fast. I started to think we would have an early harvest. I finished the yellow peas in August but the yield was poor. Malt barley was in the bin by September 3rd and yields were average. Then harvest came to a standstill. It started to rain and not just showers but downpours, upwards of 4" at a time. I think this may have helped the soybeans as they were podding at this time but hard on my nerves as wheat grades dropped and my canola sat in the fields.
After daily moisture testing and sitting around harvest finally resumed and canola and wheat were in the bin and yields were average to my surprise. The soybeans developed and the heat units crept into the 2000's More and more pods appeared and yield potential increased. It was starting to look more and more like I would harvest my first Soybeans this year.
The heat units were really slowing down at this point as the days got shorter and the nights were colder. But after a couple of weeks the plants started to turn and the pods changed color. Then it was time to apply a pre-harvest of glyphosate and Heat LQ.
Then 5 days later it was time to harvest and it went quite well. Yields were around 20bu/ac in the main field and the plots were mostly around 15. This goes to show there is a great potential for this crop in our area. Some things need to be worked out and I hope in 2016 I can find a variety that can yield in the 30's and have the growth characteristics that will make them easily harvested without low pods.
The micro climate south of Big Valley where I grew these ended up with approximately 2275 CHU and 320mm of rain during the May 20th to October 14 growing season. If the heat units can be duplicated with a June rain next year I anticipate great things for this untraditional crop in Central Alberta.