2015 was a bumper crop year for Manitoba with farmers setting new records for corn and soybean yields, according to data collected by the crop insurance branch of the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC).
Based on 99.7 per cent of yield data from insured farmers entered into MASC’s database, the average yield for corn in 2015 is 136 bushels an acre, which beat the previous record set in 2013 by three bushels. In 2014, Manitoba’s insured corn crop averaged 113 bushels an acre and the 10-year average is 108.
Soybeans, which averaged 39 bushels an acre, narrowly surpassed the previous record of 38.5 also set in 2013. Figures could vary slightly once all the data is keyed in. Soybeans averaged 33 bushels an acre in 2014, which is also the 10-year average.
Canola, Manitoba’s biggest-acreage crop, averaged 42 bushels an acre — just one bushel shy of the record set in 2013.
Provincial average yields for hard red spring wheat, winter wheat, oats, barley, flax, white pea beans and non-oilseed sunflowers, all exceeded 2014 yields and the 10-year average.
“What stands out from 2015 is that yields were pleasantly surprising given the extreme weather that was random and spread out across the province,” Doug Wilcox, MASC’s manager of research administration, said in an interview Dec. 31. “The northwest was dry, other areas were wet. There was hail, there was lodging. We were thinking we’d do well to get an average yield, and here we are above average. We’ve got records for soybeans and corn. I think everyone would be surprised by that.”
At 51 bushels an acre, hard red spring wheat was just a bushel higher than in 2014, 10 per cent above the 10-year average, but 10 bushels under the record of 61 set in 2013.
Feed wheat, which includes the high-yielding American Dark Northern Spring Faller and some high-yielding varieties in the Canada Western General Purpose class, was the only major crop grown in 2015 that averaged less yield than in 2014 — 67 bushels an acre versus 71. Still it was 10 bushels ahead of the 10-year average and exceeded both winter and hard red averages.
Manitoba farmers started seeding cereals and canola early last spring, but a killing frost May 30 in many areas resulted in almost a million acres — most of them canola — being reseeded, Wilcox said. Statistically late-May and early-June plantings are still early enough to achieve near-normal yield potential, he added.
Manitoba farmers suffered more hailstorms in 2015 than the year before. While some storms hit in June the most devastating were in August when crops were more mature and had less time to recover before harvest, Wilcox said.
There were almost 3,400 hail claims registered in 2015 compared to just over 1,400 in 2014. However, 2015 payouts totalled $46 million compared to $16 million in 2014.
“So roughly speaking, there were double the claims and three times the payout,” Wilcox said.
Dale Alderson predicted above-average corn yields and the potential for a record back in August. He works with Intel Seed, a DuPont Pioneer seed dealer, at Oakville.
“It was a corn year,” Alderson said in an interview Dec. 31.
He predicted Aug. 26 many corn growers in the Portage la Prairie area would average 130 to 200 bushels an acre. His forecast was based on corn kernels. The main risk then was an early frost. Most areas didn’t get frost until well after crops were mature.
As a result, Alderson expects farmers to plant more corn in 2016 if prices and weather are good.
Dennis Lange, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development’s pulse crop specialist, wasn’t surprised soybeans averaged 39 bushels an acre. However, earlier in the season, he was forecasting around 35 because of hail damage. Some soybean crops in the St. Jean-Letellier-Dominion City area were completely defoliated.
Soybean yields might have been even higher had it not been hot and dry in some areas in late July and early August, Lange said.
“I think we did lose some yield potential there, but that’s part of growing soybeans in Manitoba,” he said.
Lange expects Manitoba farmers will seed at least 1.5 million acres of soybeans in 2016, up from 1.3 million last year. Plantings could even hit 1.6 million, he added.
“I think we’ll see more acres in the west,” Lange said. “Talking to growers from the western part of the province there was some very good yields out there.”
However, Lange stressed farmers shouldn’t push their rotations for fear of attracting weed, insect and disease pests. He also urges farmers to grow varieties with maturities suitable for their farms.
MASC’s 2015 yield and variety data will be published in Yield Manitoba next month and distributed in the Manitoba Co-operator. The information will also be available online through Management Plus.