MANDAN, N.D. - Though soybeans have been grown in every North Dakota county, the crop's spread in southwestern North Dakota has been slower because of a previous lack of easily obtained crop insurance, few marketing options and a drier climate.
Now more farmers in southwestern North Dakota are adding soybeans to their rotations, finding new varieties and crop insurance options, combined with the financial viability of the crop, make them a good fit in rotations, says Nancy Johnson, executive director of the North Dakota Soybean Growers Association.
Delane Thom, general manager of CHS Southwest Grain, says his company handles soybeans in New Salem, N.D., and in Lemmon, S.D. At New Salem, Southwest Grain can fill two to three shuttle trains per year with soybeans, with each holding 410,000 to 420,000 bushels. Though not an enormous amount, it compares to zero five years ago, he says.
Spence Koenig with Direct Ag Supply in Mandan says he's heard from quite a few farmers looking to switch acres to soybeans in 2018 after some in the area had favorable yields during the 2017 drought.
Thom explains rain in late July and in August saved many soybeans in the southwest. Soybeans in some places were able to set pods, allowing some farmers "exceptional" yields.
But not everyone saw results like that.
Dennis Renner, south of Mandan, advises being conservative on the number of acres planted to soybeans in the area. Renner has grown soybeans most years since 1999 and thinks he may have been among the first farmers to try them in Morton County.
Renner is "semi-retired," and his son, Lance, makes the planting decisions on their 3,000 acres. Their place had "half a crop" of soybeans, compared to good crops of corn and durum, during the 2017 drought.
"Ours weren't too good," he says. Their soybeans ranged from the upper teens to lower 20s in terms of bushels per acre. That's compared to 40 bushels per acre in 2016.
Soybeans do have qualities that make them more favorable than some other crops, Renner says. "What you've got on the truck you get paid for," without issues of test weight, protein or vomitoxin, he says. Now that there are more markets and crop insurance is available, it's easier to grow than in the past, he says.
He understands that the ability to contract soybeans at a profit is attractive to many farmers right now, but the Renners tend to "speculate" more on their soybeans and contract crops in which they have "Act of God" clauses so they don't have to go looking for bushels to fill a contract in a bad year.
As long as prices are favorable, Thom expects them to spread in southwestern North Dakota.
"If that continues, they will continue to push more beans into the area," he says.