Why it's important to continue to try new crops — when you can

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If you’re on Twitter, you might have seen John Kowalchuk creating a following for his #RumseySoybeans that he has tackled over the past five years on his farm in Rumsey, Alta.

Soybeans are a tricky crop to grow, as they need a certain amount of heat units that central Alberta doesn’t always experience. This didn’t stop Kowalchuk, as he wanted to try something new and widen his crop rotations.

“I knew there was an established market for soybeans, so that was an easy decision. The thing was, could we really grow them, and take them to maturity? I found that over the time that I have grown them, I can take them to maturity, but the yield is the issue. So finding the ROI on them was about 30 bu/ac, and I was only able to reach that once during the five years that I grew them,” he explains in the video below.

Moisture played a huge part in the inability to get the soybeans to reach full maturity, says Kowalchuk. However, he didn’t come out of growing these soybeans without learning some important things — that helped in the wider sense of his farm.

“Growing soybeans taught me a lot about the agronomics of certain plants and it made me look a lot closer at some of my other crops. So the lessons I learned from growing soybeans is that as I’m transferring into things like growing peas, wheat, or canola, is taking a closer look at how I do that, and not just think it’s second nature because we’ve been doing it for so long,” notes Kowalchuk. “It’s reinvigorated me as far as looking at being a better grower, and so I think that’s the biggest takeaway that I’ve got from growing them.”

He also adds that whenever you try growing a new crop, it’s important to commit — start small, but try whatever crop it is for more than one year if you can.

“Do it over a few years. Don’t do a one and done because it absolutely tells you nothing. You could hit a home run, or you could totally get shut out. And without putting in that time, and really seeing how it works overtime, you don’t know how that crop will work.”

Check out the full conversation between RealAgriculture’s Kara Oosterhuis and John Kowalchuk, filmed at FarmTech in Edmonton, Alta., below:

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