Get ready to see more soybeans zipping by your truck window during trips to town this summer.
According to Statistics Canada’s first Principal Field Crops report of the season, which looks at seeding intentions for the coming season, Manitoba’s soybean acres are expected to jump 34.6 per cent in 2017. Of the seven million soybean acres expected to be grown across the country, 2.2 million acres could be rooted here.
But the news doesn’t come as a shock to Francois Labelle, executive director for the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers.
“We’re not overly surprised at the big jump in acres, we’ve been hearing this since last fall that these were the type of numbers we’d be looking at this year,” he said. “The success of the last few years, both in terms of yields and the values of the crops, have made it very interesting to a lot of growers, and that’s why we’re seeing the jump.”
New technologies and earlier-maturing varieties have also played a key role in increasing acres.
“You know 40 or 50 years ago in Manitoba we didn’t have early varieties and most of the early attempts failed,” Labelle said. “Now, with all these new varieties and the dollars that are being put into research for earlier varieties, it’s really helping their success in Manitoba.”
But south of the border there are concerns that increased soybean production will contribute to a glut of product. In its own perspective plantings report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said this year’s soybean acres are expected to top last years at nearly 90 million acres.
The United States is the world’s largest soybean producer, followed by Brazil, Argentina and China.
“When you look at the world production of soybeans, our soybean acres are not a very big factor in the world picture,” Labelle said. “Yes, we are still concerned with the world numbers and so on, but we are just a small, small cog in that big wheel.”
Manitoba could also see a huge leap in corn acres this year, with Statistics Canada reporting that the province’s producers plan to seed 475,000 acres with grain corn this spring, representing an increase of nearly 38 per cent over last year.
“It’s hard to pin it on one particular thing, but I would tend to say the leading cause of this is the yields that corn producers have been realizing over the last few years,” said Myron Krahn, president of the Manitoba Corn Growers Association. “It’s not that the commodity value has increased… it’s just that we are pumping out such big yields nowadays, the varieties are so much better than in the past and the farming practices are getting so much better every year, it’s turning corn into a profitable crop based on our ability to produce bushels.”
Better technology has also expanded the areas where corn is grown.
“So we do see corn now in the non-traditional corn-growing areas,” he said. “Now we’re seeing these other areas to the north and to the west successfully growing corn because the varieties mature quickly and they still have tremendous yield potential.”
As with soybeans, the United States has record stocks of corn in reserve — 8.616 billion bushels as of March 1 — but that shouldn’t pose a problem for Manitoba corn growers, said Krahn.
“We are still a net importer of corn. Manitoba producers don’t produce enough corn to satisfy our local markets, so there is still room for corn to grow in Manitoba before we put too much pressure on our local price,” he said. “But the big driver of course is what happens in the U.S., and ending stocks are very, very high, so if they end up pumping out a massive crop again this year they will put pressure onto price.”
Nationally, it’s expected corn acres will increase 12.8 per cent to 3.8 million acres, with Ontario and Quebec seeing increases of around 10 per cent. However, Krahn cautions that seeding intentions don’t always result in seeding realities.
“Acre intentions on corn are always based on the assumption that the spring allows for it. Canola would have a much wider window, you could seed canola from now till the 20th of June, corn does not have that option,” he said. “I don’t think there is a single acre of corn in the ground yet in the province… corn is one of those crops that as you get later into May, there will be producers switching out of corn and into something else, sooner than they would with another crop.”
Labelle agrees that weather will make the final call for soybean acres as well.
“What’s important now is that the weather smartens up so that we can get the crop in the ground,” he said.