Keep Your Soybeans Clean

As Planting Season Approaches, Get Ready To Protect Your Yields From Pests

By Colleen Halpenny

In 2022, Ontario producers cropped an impressive 3,080,400 acres of soybeans according to Statistics Canada. This represents 58 per cent of total soybean production acres across Canada, and Ontario soybeans totalled $2.94 billion in farm cash receipts in 2021.

With so many acres invested, and yields on the line, we spoke with some experts to explore how you can bolster your stand’s health in the upcoming season.

Be in the know

For Marty Vermey, senior agronomist with Grain Farmers of Ontario, the worst scenario is finding yourself in a situation for which you are completely unprepared.

“Many farmers live in a world of denial – ‘I don’t have that problem’ – and then a small management change or troublesome weather comes into play, and they’re now dealing with problems that are much larger than they can handle,” he says.

Vermey suggests producers stay informed on the latest research and field reporting, and invest some time with apps that can connect multiple users.

GFO’s Pest Manager app allows producers to identify, map and find integrated management options for common weeds, insects and disease in corn, soybean, and cereal crops, while with their Threshold app, users can search for action thresholds of common pests in several field crops.

A Japanese Beetle on a soybean leaf
    A Japanese Beetle on a soybean leaf. -Marty Vermey photo

“The best defence is knowing what your current, or potential, problems are before you need to implement a solution. This also applies to knowing how a neighbouring field is being managed. As an example, fleabane can travel easily, and now you’re dealing with something you didn’t count on,” says Vermey.

Scott Fife, who crops 1,600 acres in Stormont County, believes being educated is the first step for a successful season.

“At the end of the day, each grower needs to be educated. Take advantage of conferences, input supplier meetings, agronomists, and consultants to expand your knowledge. But regardless of the outside experts, you’re responsible for your fields. There’s never too much time spent scouting. If anything, there’s likely too little,” he says.

Both Fife and Vermey agree that active scouting and threshold monitoring throughout the season will not only assist with current plant health, but the resulting yields of the crop, as you will be able to determine the best course of action to manage any upper levels of infestation.

Scouting different areas of the field, and keeping good notes, will help you track any changes in population.

Starting strong

“Seed treatments, overall improvements to genetics, and ensuring you are starting with a clean field all contribute to getting the beans off to a healthy start. Ensuring ideal moisture, plant population, and emergence is important, and remember that beans are a hardy competitor to diseases, if we manage them properly,” says Marc Maisonneuve, Eastern Ontario area agronomist for Corteva Agriscience.

A healthy start to the plant’s lifecycle will be most advantageous when the insect population, combined with volatile weather, become most problematic in later July and August.

Maisonneuve highlights the importance of protection prior to the R2 stage, as that will allow the soybeans to fill their pod potential.

Vermey thinks a lot of value can be placed in forecasters when exploring if white mold spores are present. If conditions continue as expected, the ability to apply the proper solution prior to emergence will minimize their destructive presence.

“It’s also a shift in management, which is happening more readily. Adjusting the canopy into 30-inch rows instead of seven for those areas where white mold is highly present can holistically manage these hurdles, before we need to go in with sprays,” he says.

As seed treatments have helped growers limit mass spraying, Vermey is pleased. He says that he likes that they have taken the place of those prophylactic treatments.

Fife agrees that seed treatments are a great insurance policy as you place the crop into the soil, saying that “a lot of the early seedling problems we can encounter are controlled by these, and they continue to evolve and improve for new controls.”

Facts over fables

Last year producers saw a high presence of aphids across many counties, but as Fife describes, there was an unlikely response.

aphids on soybean plant
    Corteva photo

“We heard too many times the response of ‘I have enough ladybugs; I don’t need to spray’ or the old ‘it’s going to rain; they’ll get washed off’ but what was missed was that the threshold for damage was already achieved.

“If you have 250 aphids per plant, and climbing, you need to spray. No amount of ladybugs or rain is going to stop them. But, some thought they could get by. And when the combines rolled around, there was significant damage for those fields.”

Vermey shares the increased presence of spider mites in his area of Blenheim, which emerged quickly during the long dry spell in August.

“They migrated out of the hay fields, and moved quickly into the beans, because we had that ideal triangle of right weather, presence and susceptibility. Many were left unsure as where to start,” he says.

Maisonneuve likes when producers are confident in the positive pests such as ladybugs, maggots, and pirate bugs, but cautions against relying solely on them to manage pest presence. Instead he advises growers to “be vigilant, know timing is critical, and understand when to intervene. Don’t rely on old notions to keep your crop healthy, and don’t think broad spectrum spraying will, either.

“It’s about the whole picture – crop rotations, positive pests, and keeping the plant healthy as it moves from the vegetative to reproductive stages.”

Going forward

As far as advice for the 2023 crop, Vermey is optimistic, given how tolerant yields were of the long dry period last year.

“It shows how far genetics have come and what they bring to the table.

“We need to manage the crop and the conditions we experience. Be flexible and adjust to what you are growing through,” he says.

Fife knows that soybean prices have dropped a bit, but that historically they are still high.

“Focus on protecting the yield and ensuring your toolbox is full of knowledge and resources to respond to any potential problems that may be encountered.

“Top priority has to always be the amount of time you’re spending with the crop. No matter how full your toolbox, if you don’t know what’s happening at each stage, you’re going to be caught on the back foot.

“You can’t drive by. You need to have your feet all throughout the field, and then bring in additional eyes and resources to help with any issues that you find,” he says.

Maisonneuve agrees that “while we can’t rely on having the same stressors as last year, or predict what this year’s will be, we know the resources exist to help producers achieve their yield goals.” BF

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