Manitoba’s long-held title as Canada’s top pedigreed seed producer ended in 2019.
After seven consecutive years in top spot Alberta edged Manitoba out by just 8,468 acres, figures in the Manitoba Seed Growers’ Association’s (MSGA) 2019 annual report show.
Alberta seeded 349,411 acres of pedigreed seed last year versus Manitoba’s 340,942 acres, putting it in second place. Saskatchewan was third with 329,063 acres.
It’s not that pedigreed seed plantings in Alberta surged last year. In fact, they were little changed from 2018. Instead the upset occurred because Manitoba’s pedigreed seed plantings fell by 39,197 acres in 2019.
Most of the lost acres were soybeans, outgoing MSGA president Andrew Ayre said in an interview during the association’s annual meeting in December.
Observers say the drop in commercial soybean acres in 2018 and 2019 reflects generally disappointing yields.
“We expected this dip down,” Ayre said.
“But in fact next year (2020) I expect we’ll see more soybeans. It was so wet no fertilizer went down this fall. If we can’t get back into the field until the 20th of May beans will be a good bet so I expect our acres to bounce back.”
Last year Manitoba seed growers planted 139,541 acres of pedigreed soybeans, down 32 per cent from 204,250 acres in 2018. It was an almost 65,000-acre decline.
While soybeans yielded well in Ayre’s area around Minto, provincially 2019 yields are expected to be below average when crop insurance data is published in Yield Manitoba next month and posted online by the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation.
Despite the decline in commercial and pedigreed seed soybean plantings in Manitoba, it’s still the province’s third most popular annual crop after canola and wheat.
It was the rapid rise in commercial soybean plantings that pushed total Manitoba pedigreed seed production to top spot in Canada in 2013 beating Saskatchewan by just a few hundred acres, then MSGA president Eric McLean said in a 2015 interview.
Manitoba pedigreed seed acres hit a record 390,982 in 2019.
What makes Manitoba’s feat stand out is its small size. Saskatchewan and Alberta have about 38 million and 34 million acres of cropland respectively, compared to Manitoba’s 12 million.
Alberta produces almost all Canada’s pedigreed canola seed, but since it takes far fewer pounds of canola seed to grow a commercial canola crop compared to a soybean crop, it also translates into fewer acres of pedigreed canola seed to meet farmer demand.
Canadian farmers routinely plant more than 20 million acres of canola, but only grow around 54,000 acres of pedigreed canola seed a year.
Since Manitoba wasn’t much far behind Alberta, Ayre expects this province could once again become the pedigreed seed leader in Canada.
“I think we’re going to run neck and neck,” he said. “We’re very diverse in Manitoba. The specialty crop sector is growing so I think our acres (of pedigreed seed) are going to be pretty solid.”