Expansion of soybean production farther and farther north is occurring because soybean breeders are developing shorter maturity soybean varieties. That northern expansion is exemplified by Pioneer Hi-Bred establishing a research center at Carman, Manitoba, Canada.

The Carman research center was established because Pioneer sees soybean production in Canada as a frontier territory for growing more soybeans. There has been huge expansion to the north during the past couple decades, and that expansion is continuing.

“I think if someone 20 years ago would have said we will be growing a significant number of soybean acres in the Red River Valley, I think people would have been shaking their heads wondering what this is all about. They would have said you’ve got to be crazy,” noted Steve Schnebly, Pioneer senior research manager crop genetics research and development.

Schnebly recently explained that Manitoba soils and the growing season are conducive to soybean production being profitable for growers.

“We have a lot of good yield potential, but we need to try and find varieties that can mature in a very short season. We actually are making very good progress on this, and there is a lot of people in Manitoba that would like to switch from field peas and some small grains. It is not about switching from canola for soybeans. It is about switching from some other crops for profitability per acre, and many growers think they can make more profit with soybeans than some other crops they are growing today,” Schnebly said.

Even though the expansion north includes Pioneer and other soybean breeders having northern research operations, this does not mean new northern varieties cannot be developed using winter nurseries in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and other countries. With winter nurseries, there can be two to three cycles per year or two to three more growing seasons per year.

Pioneer entered the soybean business in 1973 at a time when it took 12 to 15 years to bring completely new varieties of soybeans to market. Using winter nurseries, the time to provide new technology seed products to customers is basically half the time. 

 “We can now introduce a new technology in about 7 to 8 years rather than 12 to 15 years,” Schnebly said. Therefore, new varieties for expanding farther north will continue to come onto the market quite fast.