Dry soils, high prices prompt farmers’ return to wheat and durum

Farmers in drier regions of the 
western Prairies flirted with canola 
but are turning back to the tried and true

Attractive prices and weather issues are expected to help farmers in Canada take a serious look at seeding more acres to wheat this summer than in previous years, according to industry sources.

“Last year a lot of farmers took a chance with canola given the high financial returns, but the drier-than-anticipated conditions across parts of the Canadian Prairies resulted in yields for that crop coming in well below normal,” said Jerry Klassen, manager of GAP Grains and Produits in Winnipeg.

The potential for drier conditions is prompting farmers to consider a crop that has more tolerance to dry soils, he said.

“Farmers who planted canola in the marginal producing areas of Saskatchewan and Alberta are likely the ones considering the switch to wheat from canola,” he said.

Agriculture Canada in its January supply-demand outlook pegged 2013-14 all-wheat area at 25.326 million acres, which would compare with all-wheat-seeded area in 2012-13 of 23.826 million acres.

Klassen said wheat area in Canada would be up three per cent in the spring of 2013.

Neil Townsend, a wheat analyst with CWB, agrees attractive prices and crop rotation requirements should translate into more wheat and durum seeded in Western Canada.

“A lot of the canola area that was planted in marginal areas, included the southern regions of both Alberta and Saskatchewan,” said Mike Jubinville, an analyst with ProFarmer Canada.

Those areas have traditionally been seeded to wheat and durum and the expectation is that this area will again see wheat and durum plantings. Durum area in Canada is expected to be at least seven per cent higher in 2013 than the 4.579 million acres seeded in the spring of 2012, Klassen said.

Agriculture Canada estimated 2013 durum plantings in Canada at 4.819 million acres. Jubinville also projected that durum area will be up significantly at the expense of both canola and barley.

“The key to wheat areas climbing this spring is the fact that farmers have planted canola too many years in a row and need to change the rotation in order to prevent disease and other crop issues with that land,” Jubinville said. “Wheat and durum just happens to be an attractive financial alternative at this time.”

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