“Our organization is strong, growing, there’s a lot of interest in corn.”
– MURRAY PRITCHARD
Harry McKnight of Roland is the winner of the 2009 corn yield competition organized by the Manitoba Corn Growers Association (MCGA) with a yield of 198.17 bushels an acre.
McKnight grew Pioneer Hi-Bred’s 39D97 in 30-inch rows. The crop had a bushel weight of 51.6 pounds, which is slightly under the desired 53.5 pounds or higher.
John Bergen received the $500 for the win from Pioneer Hi-Bred and corn competition trophy on McKnight’s behalf.
Although the yield is 22 per cent lower than last year’s record of 252.95 set by Nivervillearea farmer Lorne Loeppky, it’s remarkable given the less-than-ideal corn-growing season. Only an estimated 31 per cent of Manitoba’s 161,000 acres of grain corn was harvested in 2009 after a cold growing season. However, what was harvested, on average, yielded well, although bushel weight was down and moisture content was up.
An estimated 53 per cent of the corn was written off by the insurance division of the Manitoba Agricultural Services Board due to mould and immaturity.
About 10 per cent of the crop remains in the field, but MCGA president Murray Pritchard of Roland said he expects most of it will be also written off given high levels of mould and low corn prices.
2009 was another colder-than-normal growing season, as was 2008. But with a warm September, a longer-than-normal frost-free fall and warmer-than-usual November it looked for a while as if corn growers would pull off a miracle two years in a row. And some did, but over half the acres didn’t quite make it.
Despite that corn growers remain optimistic, Pritchard said during the MCGA’s annual meeting last week held during the Manitoba Special Crops Symposium.
“Our organization is strong, growing, there’s a lot of interest in corn,” he said. “I know we’ve had a couple of tough years in corn. Two years ago we just squeaked by.”
MCGA director Gary Unrau, who also farms at Roland, said corn is still one of farmers’ most profitable crops. And the outlook is better now that Husky has expanded its ethanol plant at Minnedosa because it will buy some of the lower-quality corn farmers harvested in 2009.
“I think this is a big turning year for the corn industry and crop insurance, which we’re dealing with too,” he said.
The MCGA is in solid financial shape, Pritchard said. The association has a $100,000 reserve fund to help it survive years like this when checkoff revenue is down due to lower production and prices. The MCGA wants to build the reserve to $300,000, he added.
Yields in the corn competition do not represent the average from a field or even an acre of corn. Instead competitors are allowed to select parts of rows, which are hand picked and harvested. The idea when the competition first began in 1971 was to demonstrate the yield potential for corn. Since the methodology is consistent one year to the next, the results track the steady climb in field-scale yields.
1992 was the first year competitors exceeded the 200-bushel-an-acre mark. In 2008 four of the 59 entries exceed 200 bushels an acre, compared to 17 out of 93 in 2007. In 2009 McKnight came close to 200.
Shawn McCutcheon of Homewood was second in the competition with a yield of 180.71 bushels an acre. He also grew Pioneer Hi-Bred’s 39D97 in 30-inch rows. McCutcheon received $200.
Third place went to MCGA president Murray Pritchard of Roland who also grew 39D97 with a yield of 178.33. He received $100.
The remaining top 10 winners are as follows:
4) Max Martens of Altona, growing Legend 98-75 and a yield 166.71.
5) Bud and Adam McKnight of Homewood, Pioneer 39B96, 165.39.
6) Bermar Farms, Altona, Pioneer 39D97, 164.72.
7) Jack Froese, Winkler, Pioneer 39D97, 163.77.
8) Vic Janzen, Carman, Pioneer 39D97, 160.78.
9) Myron Krahn, Carman, Pride 4176, 159.91.
10) Shawn Klippenstein, MacGregor, Pioneer 39B93, [email protected]