Manitoba corn yields and quality are believed to be higher than average this year, in part because of better weather, but also because of improved varieties.
And the quest for even better corn hybrids for Manitoba is getting a boost from a new research project involving corn growers in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the newly created Canadian Field Crop Research Alliance.
The Manitoba Corn Growers Association (MCGA) was so committed to the project it put up $60,000 earlier this year so research trials could start in the spring, even though a research agreement hadn’t been officially approved, said Theresa Bergsma secretary- manager of the corn growers’ association.
Part of the three-year research project will see Lana Reid of Agriculture Canada in Ottawa working on cold-tolerant corn varieties suited to Manitoba.
Statistics Canada’s estimate of Manitoba corn production will be out next month, while official figures from the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) based on insured production, won’t be available until early next year. But anecdotal reports put yields at above average. When drowned acres are included, corn yields will be average to a bit above, Bergsma says.
MASC’s nine-year average is 85.6 bushels an acre, which includes the 2004 average yield of just 3.8 bushels an acre. The record-high yield was 118 bushels set in 2007.
“Yields (this year) range from 100 bushels an acre up to over 200 bushels an
GOOD CROP:Most Manitoba corn is in the bin, but there were still a few fields to harvest earlier this month including this one south of Roland.
acre with a weigh wagon (in parts of fields),” Allan Calder a Letellier-area farmer and corn seed dealer said in an interview Oct. 28. “Hovering in that 200 bushel an acre for a strip harvested by a combine is pretty incredible.”
Calder said some fields averaged well over 150 bushels per acre.
Even in areas that were too wet, farmers are saying their corn yielded better than they expected, Calder said.
Last year about half the corn crop was written off. There wasn’t enough heat for much of the crop to mature properly and mould set in after a wet October.
Many corn areas had average to above-average corn heat units (CHU) in 2010, including at his own farm, Calder said. He counts on getting about 2500 CHU a year and this year received more than 2600.
Temperatures in September were warm, but not excessively hot and that allowed for good kernel filling, Calder said.
Much of the corn was planted in April and got off to a good start, despite some cold weather.
“ This year we didn’t have a (killing) frost until October so it nicely filled at the end.”
Much of the corn was harvested relatively dry – some as low as 16 per cent, Calder said. That and warm fall temperatures saved money on drying costs.
The ideal moisture level for reducing harvest losses is 20 to 25 per cent, he said. Any drier and too much corn is lost due to shelling before it enters the combine.
“Even some of the non-corn- growing areas got fairly decent yields as well, including some of the heavier ground east of Carman and north of Altona where guys are just getting going into corn,” Calder said. “It might entice more guys to try a few acres. It’s another crop in the rotation.”
Good yields and decent prices (around $4.50 a bushel in late October) should encourage production. There’s an opportunity for new growers to expand their plantings, he said.
According to MASC Manitoba farmers seeded 168,650 acres of corn in 2010, up from 160,781 last year and the 10-year average of 146,599 acres.
Corn production in Manitoba is spreading from the traditional Carman- Altona-Morden triangle partly because of new, earlier varieties, Calder said. Earliermaturing corn means less risk of a crop failure.
Farmers also have their land better drained so they can get on it earlier to seed in the spring and harvest in the fall, he said.
Farmers are getting glimpses of yield potential in the 200-bushels-per acre mark. Now farmers need to focus on finding ways to get those yields across an entire field, Calder said.
“We’ve been growing corn since 1971 on our own farm and it has come an awful long ways,” he said. “Back then if we were in the mid- 60s (per acre) we were doing really good. It really, really has gone past that.”
“This year we didn’t
– ALLAN CALDER