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Manitoba farmers poised to smash soybean record

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Manitoba farmers expect to plant a record 2.2 million acres of soybeans this year as the popularity of the oilseed continues to grow at the expense of other perennial favourites like canola and wheat.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/04/2017 (2107 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba farmers expect to plant a record 2.2 million acres of soybeans this year as the popularity of the oilseed continues to grow at the expense of other perennial favourites like canola and wheat.

In its first Principal Field Crops report of the year, Statistics Canada said Friday a recent survey of Canadian farmers found Manitoba producers intend to boost soybean acreage by 34.6 per cent this year and to reduce wheat and canola acreage by nine and 1.7 per cent respectively.

If they follow through with those plans, this year’s soybeans total will easily surpass the previous record of 1.6 million acres set just last year. It would also mark the 10th consecutive year of increased soybean planting in Manitoba.

T. Rob Brown / The Associated Press Files Manitoba farmers are expected to increase the amount of soybeans they’re growing by 34.6 per cent this year.

Dan Mazier, president of the province’s largest farm group — the Keystone Agricultural Producers — said he’s not surprised to see the popularity of soybeans continuing to grow. He said farmers like them because they don’t need to apply nitrogen fertilizer — which reduces their input costs — and because new varieties have been developed which allow farmers to grow the crop in more areas of the province.

Another plus is that the summers have been wetter in recent years, and soybeans like moisture.

“But what I can’t believe is the rate of growth and where we’re growing them now,” he added.

He noted that three years ago, only a handful of farmers in the Swan River area were “dabbling” in soybeans. But when he visited the area last summer, “all you saw was soybeans,” he added.

Another nice thing about soybeans is that they fit well into a farmer’s crop rotation. They can plant a cereal crop in a field one year and plant an oilseed crop like canola or soybeans the next year to keep the soil healthy.

He said if Manitoba producers can convince a soybean processor to build a processing plant in the province — something that is actively being discussed — that would boost the crop’s popularity even more.

“That will be a game changer,” he said.

While local farmers intend to plant more soybeans and less canola and wheat this year, the latter two still remain the province’s most popular crops, with planned acreage this year of 3.1 million and 2.7 million respectively.

Another crop Manitoba producers expect to plant a lot more of this year is corn. Planting is expected to jump by 38 per cent to a record 475,000 acres, which is 95,000 acres more than the previous record set in 2013.

Mazier said because corn is a cereal crop, it also can be used in the crop-rotation cycle. There’s also healthy demand for corn because it can be used as livestock feed and for making ethanol fuel.

He said the main reason even more corn isn’t being planted is because a lot of rural communities still don’t have access to natural gas, which is required to run corn-drying machines. The alternative is to use propane, which can be costly.

However, there is a push to expand natural gas service to more areas, so that’s encouraging, he added.

Oats are another crop Manitoba farmers intend to plant more of this year. Statistics Canada said the number of seeded acres is expected to jump by 47 per cent to 550,000 acres.

Mazier said that’s because oats are relatively easy to grow, they tend to produce high yields, there’s good demand south of the border and prices are high — up to $3.50 per bushel recently compared to $1.80 to $2 per bushel a few years ago.

“So you’re making very good money on oats,” he added.

On the flip side of the coin, farmers plan to sow less barley, dry beans and sunflower seeds this year. Statistics Canada said producers intend to reduce barley acreage by 11.1 per cent to 320,000, dry bean acreage by 23.1 per cent to 90,000, and sunflower seed acreage by 28.6 per cent to 50,000.

The Statistics Canada survey was conducted between March 16 and March 31, and included a total of about 11,600 farmers in the three Prairie provinces, Ontario and Quebec.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

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