Manitoba yields down, but still ahead of Saskatchewan, Alberta

StatsCan cut Manitoba yield estimates for most crops in its Sept. 14 report, but raised soybeans and corn yields

Crop production in Manitoba will be down in 2021 due to extreme heat and dry growing conditions, but Statistics Canada’s latest estimates offer some hope for higher-than-expected yields.

Statistics Canada’s latest estimate of Manitoba crop yields are down for most crops, with two main exceptions: soybeans and grain corn.

As in its previous report, StatsCan expects most Manitoba crops will yield better than those in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Still, while some experts say these latest yield estimates are likely closer to reality than the previous ones, there’s an expectation most yields will be lower yet when StatsCan’s final estimate is released Dec. 3.

Why it matters: Crop production in Manitoba will be down in 2021 due to extreme heat and dry growing conditions, but Statistics Canada’s latest estimates offer some hope for higher-than-expected yields.

StatsCan released its model-based principal field crop estimates for the month of August on Sept. 14, just two weeks after a similar report based on July crop conditions.

Both reports used satellite imagery and computer models to estimate crop yields in Western Canada.

StatsCan’s estimate, based on July conditions, raised some eyebrows because, while mostly below average, they were higher than expected given the harsh growing conditions.

And while StatsCan stands by the accuracy of its forecast, John Seay, head of StatsCan’s crop reporting unit, emphasized in an interview August 31 that the July estimate reflected crop conditions in July. He said if August weather didn’t improve, StatsCan’s new estimate would reflect that — and it does.

Instead of Manitoba spring wheat and canola yielding 56.3 and 35.4 bushels an acre as estimated in the July report, it now expects 48.1 and 32.6 bushels. That’s a 2.1 and 7.9 per cent decrease, respectively.

Those yields are also much higher than what’s estimated for in Saskatchewan and Alberta where spring wheat is estimated to yield 30.3 and 35 bushels an acre, respectively (see table below).

August 2021 estimated yield for selected Manitoba crops.

StatsCan put Saskatchewan and Alberta canola at 21.2 and 28.7 bushels an acre. That’s down 2.15 and 1.7 per cent from StatsCan’s July report.

Meanwhile, StatsCan’s latest report boosted its estimate for Manitoba soybean and grain corn yields by 12.8 and 7.2 per cent.

The August report estimates soybeans will yield 25.6 bushels an acre, versus 22.7 in July. The grain corn estimate is 111.1 bushels an acre compared to 103.6.

If the forecast proves accurate the province’s soybean and grain corn crops will be down 24.9 and 8.9 per cent from the 10-year crop insurance average.

The Manitoba Co-operator looked at StatsCan’s yield estimates for seven Manitoba crops — spring wheat, canola, soybeans, grain corn, oats, barley and sunflowers and compared them to the 10-year-average crop insurance yield and 80 per cent of that yield to see, which ones would trigger a crop insurance payout.

(See table below. Keep in mind this comparison is based on averages and crop insurance coverage and possible payouts will vary among individual farmers.)

Prairie yield estimates July compared to August 2021, selected crops.

Based on StatsCan’s July yield estimates, average crop insurance yields and 80 per cent crop insurance coverage, payouts would be triggered on just one crop — soybeans. However, with slightly lower estimates in the August report, based on average crop insurance yields two crops would trigger crop insurance payouts — soybeans and oats.

“I look for trends, and StatsCan’s latest estimate is trending lower from the last one,” Mike Jubinville, senior market analyst with MarketsFarm, said in an interview Sept. 14.

(MarketsFarm and the Manitoba Co-operator are owned by Glacier FarmMedia.)

“I think this report is valuable in the sense that I think it’s confirming the process the trade has in its mind that production is being drawn lower and lower. And in the November report (out Dec. 3) they are probably going to get lower still.”

The fact StatsCan still pegs many Manitoba crop yields above those in Saskatchewan and Alberta, puzzles Jubinville. He predicts the gap will narrow in StatsCan’s final report for the year.

“I am comfortable on the direction it’s going,” he said. “It’s getting closer to where I think where the final numbers are going to be.”

Jubinville doesn’t think StatsCan’s ‘model-based’ estimates account for the annual crops that have been, or will be converted into cattle feed. During the last major western Canadian drought in 2002 around 18 per cent of wheat acres were ‘abandoned,’ he said.

Abandonment will be taken into account in StatsCan’s final report, Jubinville said. The report will also include the results of farmer surveys on how much grain was harvested.

StatsCan’s latest wheat and canola estimates are probably closer to the mark, Dane Froese, Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development’s oilseed specialist, said in an interview Sept. 14.

“I definitely have seen some wheat crops that went in the 50s and 60s (bushels an acre) and there are fairly large parts of the province where wheat yields seemed to be good,” Froese said. “Individual farmers might average a little higher or a little lower — mostly a little lower. That estimate is highish but not outlandish. It’s definitely going to be in the upper 40s I would peg the average at, at the end of year.”

StatsCan’s latest canola yield estimate is not far off Froese’s expectation.

“My guess would’ve been 30 or 31 (bushels an acre), he said.

There are some poorer canola fields around Winnipeg but better ones to the west and north, Froese said. Some of those areas are getting 35 to 45 bushels an acre, which is disappointing compared to their normal 60 or 65, but decent given the year, he added.

“There is volume that will weight the average back up from what we are seeing in the (Red River) Valley, the Interlake and eastern region, which have a small percentage of the overall Manitoba canola crop,” Froese said.

People with the better yields are not saying much, knowing others haven’t been as fortunate, he said.

In its own words

Here’s what StatsCan had to say about the hot, dry 2021 growing conditions

Much of Western Canada experienced hot and dry growing conditions in 2021, Statistics Canada says in its Sept. 14 crop yield estimates report.

“During pollination, which is one of the most sensitive developmental stages for all crop species, temperatures above 30 C can be particularly detrimental to crop production, StatsCan says. “A lack of rain and high temperatures have negatively impacted crop growth and yield potential across much of the Prairies.

“The Crop Condition Assessment Program (CCAP) indicates that overall plant health in Western Canada was lower to much lower than normal, having decreased considerably throughout August. This indicates the likelihood of lower-than-normal yields. An assessment of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) curves, which are a measure of plant health, indicated that in almost all parts of the Prairies, crops reached peak health well ahead of normal. In some instances, peak NDVI occurred up to four weeks earlier, before decreasing rapidly, as a lack of moisture and high temperatures took a toll on plant health.

“This is the first instance since 1987, when Statistics Canada first began monitoring crop conditions using coarse-resolution satellite images, that the NDVI curves have peaked so early in the growing season. The CCAP also indicates that dry conditions have impacted almost all of Western Canada. By comparison, other notable drought years, such as 2002 — while difficult for many farm operators — were less widespread than this year’s.”


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About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

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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