By Sean Ellis
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation
BOISE – A 2018 soybean field trial sponsored by the Idaho Bean Commission showed positive but mixed results.
Because the seed used to grow the soybeans had to first pass serology and nematode testing at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture laboratory, it was planted May 30, about a month later than normal, IBC commissioners were told during their Dec. 7 meeting.
Because of the late planting, yields were lower than expected, said Eric Jemmett, president of Jemmett Consulting and Research Farm, which conducted the 11-acre field trial near Parma.
“But they performed very well (and) quality was very acceptable,” Jemmett said. “We didn’t see any disease (and) we didn’t have too much weed pressure.”
“Due to the late planting date, it is unknown how much of an effect (that) played on reducing total yield,” Jemmett wrote in a post-harvest report he prepared for the bean commission.
Officials from Scoular Co., a major agricultural company that buys, stores, handles and transports soybeans and other grain crops, were thrilled with what they saw from the trial, Jemmett said.
Protein and oil content were lower than what Scoular requires but it’s also not known what impact the later planting date had on those measurements, he said.
Jemmett said he was told by Scoular officials that “potentially, you have some great yielding plants if we plant them on time.”
“We are pleased with how they performed,” Jemmett told IBC commissioners. “We’d love to see how they do this year when they’re planted on time.”
IBC Administrator Andi Woolf-Weibye said commissioners will decide after their March research review meeting whether to fund a 2019 trial.
Soybean acres in Idaho have fluctuated from a few to a few hundred over the years but some members of the state’s dry bean and seed industries believe it’s only a matter of time before they are grown on a much larger scale in Idaho because of the state’s large dairy and cattle industries.
The bean commission, along with the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Seed Association, as recently as earlier this year had sought to place a moratorium on soybean production in southwestern and southcentral Idaho, where the state’s $70 million dry bean industry is located.
Members of the state’s dry bean and seed industries are concerned that soybeans could bring in diseases such as soybean cyst nematode that could be harmful to dry beans and other crops, such as sugar beets.
But lawmakers were not receptive to a moratorium and during an April meeting with Idaho Farm Bureau Federation dry bean committee members, IBC commissioners discussed the idea of bringing soybeans under the purview of the bean commission.
During their Dec. 7 meeting, IBC members again discussed bringing soybeans under the commission’s purview.
About 70 percent of the state’s 50,000 acres of dry beans are grown for seed and Idaho is the nation’s leader in dry bean seed production because of strict guidelines that require dry bean seed to be serology tested and certified as disease-free before it can be planted here.
The bean commission in 2014 successfully backed a new state rule that requires soybean seed to meet those same requirements.
Bringing soybeans under the IBC’s umbrella would enable the commission to ensure those soybean rules are being adhered to, said IBC Commissioner Mike Goodson, a Parma dry bean farmer.
“Our goal is to protect the dry bean industry and make sure the rules for bringing soybeans into Idaho are followed,” he said.
Other commissioners agreed with that sentiment.
It’s inevitable that soybeans will be grown in Idaho, said Don Tolmie, production manager for Treasure Valley Seed Co. in Homedale.
“We want to make sure they are brought in here correctly and lawfully, so they don’t harm dry beans,” he said. “It’s better to stay ahead of the game than let the game run amuck. Let’s stay on top of it instead of getting run over by it.”
Woolf-Weibye said the commission will continue to discuss the idea of bringing soybeans under the IBC umbrella.
Instead of seeking to ban soybean production in areas where dry beans are grown in Idaho, the commission is now trying to ensure that anyone interested in growing soybeans in the state has a source of disease-free seed that performs well in this region.
To do that, they have started working with Clint Shock, director of Oregon State University’s Malheur County agricultural research station in Ontario, which borders southwestern Idaho.
Shock has been researching soybeans for three decades and the seed stock for this year’s soybean trial near Parma came from the OSU research station. Six varieties with the greatest volume of available seed and best available quality and yield were used in the trial, according to Jemmett’s report.
The soybean seed was planted into a field that had initially been prepared for dry beans and standard herbicide and fertility requirements for dry beans were used in the trial.
When it came to irrigation, “We treat them exactly like dry beans,” Jemmett said.
Harvest began Oct. 8 but Jemmett said he could have harvested them by the end of September without an issue.
The results of the trial will be discussed during the IBC’s annual Bean School meetings, which take place Jan. 16-17 this year.
Idaho Dairymen’s Association Executive Director Rick Naerebout said the state’s dairy operators would welcome soybeans being grown in Idaho because they are a great source of protein for cattle.
He also pointed out that Idaho State Department of Agriculture officials have said adequate protections are in place to ensure soybean seed doesn’t bring in diseases that could harm existing Idaho crops.
“We’d be positive on seeing further exploration of growing soybeans here,” he said.