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Why is canola beating wheat?

The prevailing wisdom could have it all wrong

Wheat needs more research money to compete with crops like canola.

That’s the message organizers delivered at the first consultation meeting on two new proposed royalty options in Winnipeg Nov. 16.

“Cereals are necessary in crop rotations to prevent pest and disease pressures from emerging,” a government slide presentation said. “However, due to declining profitability relative to other crop types, acreage for wheat and barley has been declining in favour of other crops — e.g. canola.”

While wheat acreage has been declining in Western Canada relative to canola, wheat yields have been rising as fast or faster in percentage terms.

Boissevain farmer Mitch Janssens said average canola yields on his farm over the last 20 years jumped 64 per cent, but the percentage increase has been even higher for wheat.

That fits with crop insurance yield data from the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation.

Over the most recent 10 years, 2017 to 2008, spring wheat yields for varieties in the top milling quality Canada Western Red Spring class averaged 51.3 bushels an acre, up 28.6 per cent from the 2007-1998 average of 39.9.

During the same time periods canola averaged 37.8 and 30.2 bushels an acre, respectively, for a 25.2 per cent average yield increase.

Statistically both crops have seen yields increase by similar percentages.

During those two 10-year periods wheat plantings in Manitoba declined 7.5 per cent, while canola jumped 39.6 per cent.
Stonewall farmer Bill Matheson suggested canola is more profitable because there’s more demand for it than wheat.

For more on this topic, see the upcoming Dec. 6 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator.

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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