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Corn, soybeans are more than an alternative crop now

Corn, soybeans are more than an alternative crop now

The presenters, while hailing from separate educational institutions, were on the same page when they met in Estevan on Dec. 4 at the Southeastern Saskatchewan Corn and Soybean Summit.

The event, co-ordinated by crop specialist Sherri Roberts and her team from the Ministry of Agriculture, was staged at the Western Star Inn with over 80 producer-delegates registering for an intense one-day session.

“It’s a place to get your questions answered,” said Roberts and according to the presenters, it was also an excellent opportunity to get some clarification of their own.

“I always pick up some additional information or suggestions whenever I get to speak at one of these events,” said Bart Lardner, from the Western Beef Development Centre at the University of Saskatchewan.

Jeff Coulter from the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, and Shana Forster from North Dakota State University, Minot (NDSU), addressed the issues of corn and soybean crops, respectively. They stated that both are growing in popularity in southern Saskatchewan thanks in part, to genetic modifications that have brought these two crops into shorter growing seasons while adapting to dryer conditions.

“Corn has definitely been creeping northward,” said Coulter, just prior to his morning presentation in front of about three dozen delegates, as Forster was preparing for her presentation a few doors down on the convention floor.

“Producers are learning quickly how to manage the risk factors and corn can be flexible. Resistance to corn borer is a plus and GMO hybrids have a tolerance to Round-up which eases weed control and allows for herbicide rotations”

Coulter said the biggest challenge he sees now is in making the right hybrid selection since that is what has the biggest influence on risk. “Timeline is also a challenge,” he said, noting that some corn crops can mature in 74 days under ideal conditions. But it’s still a question of being able to plant early, he added.

Corn as grain or forage? There is the backup plan that producers can fall back on with the right hybrid model in the field. If moisture content is too high and the weather turns cool, “you can let it go and forage options are there but, again, with risks. That’s where I would recommend getting some advice from a beef nutritionist,” he said.

Coulter, who has been at the U of Minnesota for eight years, is heavily involved in their research and extension services department.

“I enjoy that work because research deals with realities and what I learn I can teach to farmers and, that works in reverse. They have a lot to teach me and I love mining the producers’ minds to get their ideas to take back to the labs.”

Forster, from NDSU, in speaking about soybeans, said Saskatchewan and North Dakota in many instances, has been on an impressive “20-year learning curve while other producers are just getting started with soybeans, so in my presentations I have to address these wide gaps that might be out there on the knowledge front, moving from the basics to the advanced, providing a little bit for both, so nobody feels they didn’t get the information they needed.”

Forster also said genetically modified seed has helped advance the production and geographical range for this crop that is becoming quite common in Saskatchewan fields.

Soybeans can also be used as forage if its conventional. That’s something that Lardner, the beef expert, confirmed, with some words of caution, since the beans are high in oils and other ingredients that can lead to dietary problems for cattle if the feeding program isn’t monitored closely.

“Soybeans are taking acreages away from traditional wheat crops in some regions,” said Forster. “They are also taking acres away from peas and lentils.”

Lardner, in adding to his comments about soybeans as forage, said research had shown the beans can be a part of a cow/calf forage and grazing management plan and when the beans had to be moved from a traditional harvest plan to one where it was to be used for grazing, it all became a case of “agronomics being the first step, and the second step is grazing and management of the herd, and its feeding into the fall and winter. You can’t treat it the same as the other crops. It has to be managed and monitored closely because of the starch, oil and fibre. Digestive upsets lead to acidosis. There are ways and means to mitigate those problems though,” Lardner said.

Good grazing strategies can maximize production and reduce costs per cow, per day, said Lardner. “Corn is attractive too, and has been growing in popularity the last four to five years. We’re learning how much feed per acre to winter a herd versus yields per acre. It’s a warm season crop but with earlier maturity, it becomes a question of ‘at what point do we use it for grazing,’” he said.  With beef costs and sales soaring and then settling back again, Lardner said producers are doing a lot of work “penciling in replacement costs. If you are developing a heifer and with costs going up, where you used to need three to four calves from her, you may need six or seven now, before payoff.”

Lardner also spoke to AgriNews about the rising interest in organic production as related to the beef industry. He said those niche markets are now expanding, where some producers with 300 or 400 head are devoting their herds to that specific market, and they are finding customers with their forage-finished beef animals. He said so far, the largest markets for organics are found in British Columbia and Manitoba.

“Other producers are doing such things as limiting antibiotic use.”

Lardner said he also works extensively in the research and extension services, but can also be found in lecture theatres talking with master and doctorate students.

“I enjoy the mix and mingle styles. A lot of my conversations after and during workshops like these, I end up with some very good ideas from producers, especially on ways to mitigate and how to work with the various western beef organizations.”

When he isn’t talking with students and producers and conducting research he said, “I spend a significant part of my time writing for grants.” “Other funding comes from beef checkoffs and some from industry,” he said.

Industry was in full bloom at the summit as well, with several exhibit tables set up in a separate conference room and their representatives making their presence felt during the afternoon working sessions, as equipment questions made it to the floor with concerns surfacing regarding herbicide spraying and insect controls.

A producer panel brought the day-long summit to a conclusion.

(Source –

Corn, soybeans are more than an alternative crop now Reviewed by on . The presenters, while hailing from separate educational institutions, were on the same page when they met in Estevan on Dec. 4 at the Southeastern Saskatchewan The presenters, while hailing from separate educational institutions, were on the same page when they met in Estevan on Dec. 4 at the Southeastern Saskatchewan Rating: 0
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