Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers (MPSG) is measuring its own vital signs with what will be the second membership survey conducted by the group in the last five years.
Francois Labelle, Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers executive director, says 2013 results will serve as a baseline for the new survey, which covers crops planted, land allotments per crop and common producer challenges. The commodity group’s future direction, including interactions with other pulse and soybean industry groups in Canada and what research should be pursued, will be on the table as results come in.
“We decided that we should do another one to see how things have changed and how people view the organization and what we’re doing, if it’s changed at all,” Labelle said. “We know the demographics of the producers have changed over the years, so it’s really time to make sure that we’re in touch with what our producers think and what they’d like to see moving forward.”
At least part of that demographic shift can be explained by the meteoric rise of soybeans over the last decade in Manitoba.
In a year where Canadian farmers are expected to plant a record seven million acres of soybeans, Manitoba is expected to have the largest percentage jump in the country. According to the March 2017 principle field crop areas report, Manitobans will plant 2.2 million acres of soybeans, up 34.6 per cent from 2016. The province has seen five consecutive record-breaking years in soybean production.
“The growth in the soybeans has already caused us to shift more into that area and we continue to do that,” Labelle said. “We’ve got usually two types of soybean growers, I’d say, in Manitoba. We’ve got growers who have been growing soybeans for 20 years and we’ve got growers who are growing them for the first or second time, so we have to make sure that we meet the needs of all the growers. As we continue to grow the acres, we have to make sure we’re on the lookout for potential problems that could happen with continuous growing like that.”
Disease and parasites are among those potential problems. Charcoal and brown stem rot have not been confirmed yet in Manitoba, although Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers has said it suspects both are already here. Likewise, the parasitical soybean cyst nematode (SCN) has been identified in North Dakota and may cross the border at any time, although the sudden death syndrome often associated with SCN has yet to find a foothold. Phytophthora rot, however, was found in 59 per cent of fields surveyed last year by the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers at an average incidence of seven per cent.
Membership has seen some growth since soybeans began increasing in popularity, Labelle said, but he added that those increases have not kept pace with the exponential growth in soybean acres.
“I think we really need to have a look at the size of the farms that we’re dealing with… We have a lot more farms that have been taken over by people and that type of thing, so I think we’ve got larger farms that are affecting the number of growers that we actually have,” he said.
The survey closes May 3 and is available on the Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Growers website.