Starting small key to growing crop
If you’re trying soybeans in the Pacific Northwest, don’t go nuts with nitrogen.“These plants fix their own nitrogen, and adding N could be detrimental to the crop,” warns Clint Shock, Oregon State University Malheur Experiment Station superintendent.
Researching potential of soybeans for Oregon for several years, Shock says that adding more than 10 to 20 pounds of nitrogen will hurt the crop.
If the root nodules are pink, they are fixing nitrogen on the roots, he adds.
Those who tested the crop in the northwest this year may have faced some substantial unusual problems that may have rendered 2010 a bad year to determine whether the crop can do well, he says. “Planting was done during wet weather, causing seed to rot,” Shock says. Additionally, some reported trouble covering the seed with no-till drills, and those who planted less than 200,000 seeds per acre witnessed short plants with seed set too close to the ground, he notes.
• Soybeans require little, if any, added nitrogen fertilizer.
• Growers urged to begin soybean plantings with small acres.
• Willamette producers trying soybeans report problems in 2010.
His suggestion is to plan about 300,000 seeds an acre to get a crop of about half that size per acre.
Unfortunately, a loss of funding for his study resulted in a lack of germination and seed storage tests this year.
While insect pests are not a major threat at this time to PNW soybeans, some growers reported incidences of cucumber beetles and spider mites, Shock says.
When it comes to cold tolerance, some of the problems for far western soybeans may have been solved, says Michelle Armstrong of Wilbur-Ellis agribusiness. “I feel pretty confident that the cold-tolerance issues have been resolved in the varieties that are not available,” she says. “We have growers trying soybeans in several locations in the [Willamette] Valley. If growers are interested in trying them in the future, I’d recommend trying a few acres to start. Be cautious and know the crop you are growing before you plant.”
It might be a good idea to order seeds early, she says, since Wilbur-Ellis ran out of soybeans early for this year’s crop.
Shock agrees with the starting small concept. “You learn from your mistakes,” he says. “Go make some.”
He recommends using soybeans as a rotation crop to add nitrogen to the soil for subsequent plantings. “Planting soybeans after soybeans could lead to a disaster in terms of disease,” he says.
If you’re planning to plant soybeans using no-till, a method in use throughout the world, “it will work,” says Shock, although research is necessary to determine the best way to use the conservation practice with the crop.
Wet weather dampens success
Willamette grower Mike Freeman of Amity is already trying 60 acres of soybeans in the Willamette, but faced limited success due to the wet planting season.
“This is our first year to give it a try,” he says. “We had some ground that was going to go fallow anyway, so it offered a chance to look at soybeans,” he says.
Willamette producer Tony Cuff also opted for 25 acres of soybeans this year, but his planting also sustained damage due to the spring weather. “There’s a lot we don’t know,” he says. “One of my big problems was figuring out how to handle the seedbed.
“We’re facing a sharp learning curve growing soybeans in Oregon.”
This article published in the October, 2010 edition of WESTERN FARMER STOCKMAN.