Wheat is hot, oats are not as farmers load up for spring seeding

There is renewed interest in spring wheat, but growers are worried about the state of winter wheat already in the ground

Seed growers across Manitoba say wheat sales are up this year, while oats and barley are moving more slowly.

“Our area is showing a renewed interest in spring wheat with some new lines that performed well in 2012 and better pricing relative to other cereal options,” said Craig Riddell of Warren-based Riddell Seed Company.

“In the CWRS space, AC Carberry is quickly becoming the variety of choice. There is also good interest in non-CWRS varieties like Pasteur and Faller for IP milling markets and/or feed.”

Riddell also said that soybean acres are expected to remain the same, and soybean sales moved briskly in the fall. “Soybeans are a crop where early-booking discounts and limited availability of some new lines encourage growers to lock up their seed needs earlier than for other crop kinds,” he said.

Southern and southeastern Manitoba seed growers have a similar story to tell. According to Winkler-based Chris Ens, farmers have been showing increased interest in wheat, and booking since November and December, while interest in oats, pinto beans and navy beans is down.

Ste. Anne seed grower Brian Dueck said that while barley is not moving as quickly as it has in the past, he is surprised at how well it is doing this year. “And there’s definite interest in general-purpose wheat, which prior to this has been minimal,” said Dueck. Oats, however, are moving slowly.

However, there is some uptake in oats in western Manitoba. Wayne Alford, a seed grower based in Swan River, said that oats, soybeans and barley have been moving in his area, due to an increased interest in rotation.

“Farmers in this area have been abusing their rotations badly — in many cases it’s been canola on canola on canola, and the better variation is canola-wheat-canola-wheat. That has really stung us in the last year or two — between aster yellows, disease and excess moisture, we’re just getting clobbered,” Alford said. “Oats handle excess moisture and disease relatively well, and we’re seeing a lot of interest in oats and other crops besides canola.”

Alford said there are no crops that are not moving in his area, with the possible exception of canola. “Otherwise, good-quality seed is in demand,” he said.

Although spring appears to be late this year, there is no indication that growers are making last-minute changes to their seeding plans.

“There is more snow than we have seen in a while, but locally there is a lot of room for moisture in the soil profile whenever it decides to warm up,” said Riddell. “Producers won’t start to change plans significantly unless we see an extended delay.”

He said a greater concern for most growers is the state of the winter wheat crops planted in the fall. In the Interlake, germination was late in the winter wheat crop and the crop showed minimal development.

“However, we have had an excellent winter for survival, and similar conditions the previous year still produced a decent crop. But growers will be eager to see what fields look like in the spring,” said Riddell.

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