It’s unlikely Manitoba Seed Growers Association (MSGA) members will be doing a happy dance or celebrating like kids winning a hockey championship, but Manitoba is No. 1 — and for the second year in a row.
Manitoba had more inspected acres of pedigreed seed than any other province in 2014 and 2013 — thanks mainly to soybeans.
The figures, as of Oct. 31, were presented to the Interprovincial Seed Growers meeting in Winnipeg Nov. 7.
“It’s very exciting,” MSGA president Eric McLean said Nov. 8 in an interview from his farm near Oak River.
“Because soybeans expanded and wheat and barley acres contracted in Saskatchewan and Alberta, coupled with some bad weather that afflicted southeast Saskatchewan or different areas of Alberta, we have happened to get ahead.”
Manitoba had 311,190 acres of inspected pedigreed seed in 2014, compared to 279,331 in Alberta and 276,310 in Saskatchewan.
Last year, Manitoba’s pedigreed acreage was slightly higher at 330,648, beating Saskatchewan for top spot by less than a section — just 608 acres.
What makes the feat stand out is that Manitoba has around 12 million acres of cropland compared with around 38 million in Saskatchewan and 34 million in Alberta.
In 2014, pedigreed seed acres accounted for almost three per cent of Manitoba’s crop production versus Saskatchewan’s 0.73 and Alberta’s 1.2 per cent.
At 123,061 acres, pedigreed soybeans made up the most seed acres in Manitoba this year, accounting for 40 per cent.
Wheat was second with 97,359 acres, representing 31 per cent of Manitoba’s seed acres.
Ryegrass and alfalfa were third and fourth at 14,815 and 13,089 acres — double the pedigreed barley acres. Manitoba’s pedigreed wheat acres exceeded Alberta’s at 68,003, but were lower than Saskatchewan’s 114,616.
Manitoba grew no pedigreed hybrid canola in 2014. Most of it is produced in southern Alberta on irrigated land. This year Alberta had 52,923 acres of pedigreed hybrid canola; Saskatchewan had 16.
McLean doesn’t expect Manitoba to stay at the top of the heap, given Saskatchewan and Alberta’s land base. But he also sees continued growth until Manitoba’s commercial soybean plantings level off and until Saskatchewan seed growers fill Saskatchewan’s demand.
“Eventually Saskatchewan will produce its own soybean seed, but in the meantime we will fill the need until the security blanket is there for them to do it themselves,” he said.
McLean said he sold soybean seed to farmers in his local area, but the surplus went to eastern Saskatchewan.
“When they dabble, they dabble with sections, (of land),” McLean said. “There were a lot of soybeans we shipped to Estevan, Weyburn for guys to play with this year.”
At 123,061 acres of pedigreed soybean seed, Manitoba was second only to Ontario at 129,258. McLean expects next year Manitoba will surpass Ontario.
Manitoba farmers have crop insurance for soybean, but given that soybeans are Manitoba’s biggest pedigreed crop, the MSGA is hoping the Manitoba government will introduce higher crop insurance coverage, McLean said. A number of other pedigreed seed crops have higher coverage reflecting their higher market value.
The Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) is ready, but it’s a matter of budget priorities, said Craig Thomson, MASC’s vice-president of insurance.
“If everything falls into place and it is a high priority for the government and for us we’re ready with the design of the program,” Thomson said. “Again we’ll be looking at it for the upcoming year (2015). But there are no guarantees. We looked at it in 2013 and 2014 as well and had higher priorities for limited budget dollars.”
Some of those priorities included a revamped forage insurance program and allowing farmers to buy higher Excessive Moisture Insurance.
While farmers pay for those programs, the provincial and federal governments also subsidize them.
The MSGA hopes crop insurance could transfer some of the funds used to underwrite pedigreed crops declining in acreage to soybeans, McLean said.
“We’re happy to hear that there is progress being made,” he said. “We want to work with them (MASC) to continue to help foster that relationship. At the end of the day though, it’s an inequity.”