It’s a three-peat for Manitoba seed growers.
For the third year in a row, the province has grown the most pedigreed seed of any province in Canada — 380,131 acres in 2015, up 22 per cent from 2014.
It’s quite likely a Manitoba record too, said Jennifer Seward, secretary-manager of the Manitoba Seed Growers’ Association (MSGA). At the very least, it’s the most pedigreed seed acres grown in Manitoba in more than 20 years and a third higher than the five- and 10-year averages.
Saskatchewan and Alberta were second and third at 333,293 and 304,971 pedigreed seed acres, respectively. But what makes Manitoba’s feat stand out is its small size. Saskatchewan and Alberta have about 38 million and 34 million acres of cropland respectively, compared to Manitoba’s 12 million.
“I can’t say it is anything else but the expansion of soybean acres in western Manitoba,” Eric McLean, the MSGA’s outgoing president, said during an interview Dec. 10 at the association’s annual meeting in Winnipeg.
Glyn Chancey, the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association’s, new executive director agrees — soybean seed production has been significant in Manitoba.
As commercial soybean production has expanded here, so too has pedigreed soybean seed production — most of it genetically modified. Because of contracts with seed companies, most farmers can’t save their soybean seed; they buy new certified seed every year.
In 2015, Manitoba seed growers produced 132,861 acres of pedigreed soybeans making it the highest acreage seed crop for the second year running. That beat wheat, even though pedigreed wheat acres jumped 25 per cent to 132,217, according to CSGA data.
There were 718 pedigreed seed growers in Manitoba in 2015, up 10 per cent from last year. This year Manitoba accounts for 20 per cent of Canada’s seed growers and 28 per cent of Canada’s pedigreed seed acres.
There were 3,506 seed growers in Canada in 2015. They grew 1.4 million acres of pedigreed seed.
McLean isn’t sure how long Manitoba can hold the top position. Eventually Saskatchewan will produce more soybeans commercially for seed as the crop expands there.
Manitoba farmers grew 1.4 million acres of soybeans this year according to Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation records — up 14 per cent from last year. And with bumper yields in 2015, acreage is expected to rise again in 2016. But eventually Manitoba’s soybean plantings will plateau.
Seed growers in Saskatchewan and Alberta have also struggled with poor weather the last few years. In 2015 drought was a problem in some areas, while in 2014 and 2013 some regions were too wet.
Alberta produces almost all Canada’s pedigreed canola seed, but since it takes far fewer pounds of canola seed to grow a commercial canola crop compared to a soybean crop, it also translates into fewer acres of pedigreed canola seed to meet farmer demand.
Canadian farmers routinely plant more than 20 million acres of canola, but only grow around 54,000 acres of pedigreed canola seed.
In contrast, around five million acres of soybeans are planted annually but there’s more than 330,000 acres of pedigreed soybean seed grown.
While Manitoba had the most pedigreed seed acres in 2015, it didn’t produce the most acres of any particular crop. However, it did come close, placing second in soybeans behind Ontario’s 141,368 acres.
Traditionally, pedigreed seed production has been relatively flat, but as soybeans have expanded in Manitoba, so too has pedigreed production, McLean said. Manitoba farmers are also buying more certified seed of other crops, added McLean, operations manager with JS Henry Seeds at Oak River, Man.
“They realize the quality commitment that comes with certified seed,” he said. “Some of our customers buy 100 per cent certified seed now.”
It also saves time. Farmers don’t have to worry about keeping their own seed in good condition. Most certified seed also comes treated.
Pedigreed soybeans and wheat accounted for 70 per cent of Manitoba’s seed acres in 2015. Placing third, fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively were ryegrass (22,251 acres), timothy (20,390), oats (15,383) and alfalfa (14,675).