Ultimate Soybean Challenge

The Quest to Maximize Soybean Yield and Profitability in Manitoba!



Three teams have been tasked with selecting their own unique combination of soybean management practices and crop inputs in the quest to be crowned the winner of the Ultimate Soybean Challenge (USC)! Winners will be determined in two categories: yield and profit. The goal is for each team to take on a unique strategy for crop management and inputs, representing the different approaches that farmers may take in crop production.


At the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) site in Portage la Prairie, side-by-side replicated field trials were seeded on May 20. Seeding date, speed, soil characteristics and harvest dates will be the same across treatments. All other management practices will be determined by each team. Updates on crop progress and management will be provided throughout the growing season. Stay tuned to @MBPulseGrowers on Twitter for updates.


The USC challenge is on a 15-acre parcel seeded into spring tilled millet residue comprised of an imperfectly drained clay loam soil. Field history includes soybean. Soil pH is 8 with relatively high soil organic matter, low soluble salts and high fertility (84 lbs/ac N, 22 ppm P, 289 ppm K).

Meet the Teams and their Strategies

TEAM A: Kristen Podolsky, MPSG Production Specialist along with Greg Bartley (On-Farm Technician) aim to follow best management practices, choosing practices and inputs that are most likely to maximize net return.

TEAM B: Dennis Lange, Manitoba Agriculture Industry Development Specialist along with Terry Buss are trying to maximize yield and return by reducing costs of big ticket items (seed) but spending more on small costs items.

TEAM C: Curtis Cavers, CMCDC Agronomist along with soil advisor John Heard is choosing novel practices to ensure differences in production are observed and to alleviate concerns of a “home field advantage.”

  Team A - Kristen Team B - Dennis Team C - Curtis
Variety SelectedAkras R2S007-Y4Dekalb 23-60
Seed TreatmentNoneCruiserMaxx Vibrance +
Heads Up Plant Protectant
Evergol Energy
Seeding EquipmentAir Seeder 9" SpacingPlanter 30" SpacingPlanter 15" Spacing
Seeding Depth1 inch2 inch2 inch
Seeding Rate (seeds/ac)190,000150,000150,000
Plant Population (plants/ac)June 2: 109,000
June 10: 184,000
June 20: 161,000
June 27: 170,000
June 2: 61,000
June 10: 102,000
June 20: 111,000
June 27: 111,000
June 20: 124,000
June 27: 128,000
Weed Control1 Pass Glyphosate (June 9)3 Passes Glyphosate1 Pass Glyphosate (June 9)
Fungicide ProductNoneYes (applied July 17)None
Tissue TestingNoneNoneYes
Foliar NutrientsNoneYesDepending on tissue test
Chlorophyll Content (SPAD readings)Average: 23.3Average: 25.07Average: 29.8


August 5, 2016 July 18 July 11 June 27, 2016 June 21, 2016 June 9, 2016 June 1, 2016 May 30, 2016 May 27, 2016 May 20, 2016
August 5, 2016

The beans are doing fairly well overall with some things to note. Team A’s beans are showing some symptoms of bacterial blight. Team C’s beans are very weedy with full grown millet, volunteer canola, and red root pig weed all poking through. The beans are all at R-5, we’re only still seeing flowers in team C’s. SPAD readings were taken today (a SPAD meter measures the chlorophyll content in a leaf – basically how green the leaf is), and these numbers can be found in the table above. The fungicide application was applied on Team B’s beans on July 17. Allegro was applied at a rate of 470 mL/ac, in a tank mix with 113.5 L water/ac. To date the Portage site has received a total of 239 mm of rain since planting.

July 18

A little bit of septoria is showing on the bottom leaves of the canopy, and there’s a little bit of sunburn on the top leaves as well as some bacterial blight. Sunburn is only appearing in the row crops. Yesterday it rained 33.5 mm in portage so it will take a bit for everything to dry up again. The row crops in general have a lot thicker of a stem. The plants are all around the V-7 – V-8 stage and pod growth has started.

July 11

The USC soybeans are growing rapidly, with most plants being at the V-6 stage. Flowering has begun, and a lot have already progressed into the R-2 stage. The site has received 152 mm of rain to date, with 996 CHU. The 2nd application of glyphosate was made on Kristen and Dennis’ strips, and Curtis has applied some inter row tillage. Kristen and Dennis’ plots look very clean, but Curtis does have some grassy weeds growing in between the twin rows. Assessment of nodulation within plots revealed greater number of nodules in Curtis’ un-inoculated strips, while Dennis and Kristen’s inoculated strip had fewer nodules. However, it was interesting that the nodules present on Curtis’ soybeans were less pink when split open as compared to the nodules on Kristen and Dennis’ soybeans, indicating potentially lower biological N fixation.  The next crop visit will include an assessment of chlorophyll content (leaf “greenness”) using a SPAD meter,  which will give us an indication of crop N nutrient sufficiency. We will keep you all updated!

June 27, 2016

Total rainfall to date is 146 mm, with 824 CHU. Most soybeans are at the V-3 stage, with little difference in stages between treatments.

June 21, 2016

Plant stands look good, all plants are up and even though Portage has had a lot of rain (34mm 2 days ago), the USC was fairly dry. The first spray pass was done and there is minimal weed pressure. All the millet has died off. The plants are at second trifoliate and starting to green up.


June 9, 2016

All 3 teams decided to spray their first pass of glyphosate. Weed density was moderate-high, with millet, dandelion, and volunteer canola (non-RR) being the main issues. All soybeans were at the unifoliate stage. Total rainfall to date is 69 mm with 376 CHU. Plant counts were done for the second time on June 9 and increased from the first counts done on June 2. It looks like Team A is off to an early start with a higher plant stand and a 97% survival rate.

June 1, 2016

Total rainfall to date is 55 mm and 222 CHUs.

May 30, 2016

Surface dried up but very good soil moisture. All treatments are emerging with no clear differences. It was expected that the shallower seeding depth would emerge sooner but soil depth appears deeper than anticipated in all treatments (see picture). Emergence is estimated at 50% and counts will begin in early June. Main weeds are millet and dandelion.

May 27, 2016

Field saturated. Seeds germinated but no emergence yet.

May 20, 2016

The USC was seeded (soil temperature >15ºC). No rain was in the forecast so seeding depth was an important decision although there was soil moisture at about 1.5 inches. Team B and C used the same planter and decided to seed at 2 inches. Team A used an air seeder and went for about 1.25 inches. The field was rolled immediately after seeding. The air seeder was used on the farm for the first time so some kinks were worked through.