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Published April 22, 2013, 10:06 AM

Canadian planting delayed

A wet, cool spring is delaying planting on the Canadian prairie, but farmers and others generally say they aren’t terribly concerned yet.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

A wet, cool spring is delaying planting on the Canadian prairie, but farmers and others generally say they aren’t terribly concerned yet.

“We’re a week or 10 days behind normal,” says Mike Jubinville, president of Winnipeg, Manitoba-based Pro Canada Farmer, noting that some areas received double their normal snowfall this year.

“But I don’t want to get overly worked up about this. We’ve seen stressed springtime conditions many, many times over the years. Generally speaking, the crop gets in,” he says. “One way or another, the ingenuity of the producer will get the crop in.”

Canada traditionally is the world’s leading exporter of spring wheat, durum, canola and malting barley — all of which are prominent crops on the Northern Plains of the United States, too. What happens on the Canadian prairie affects U.S. crop prices, and vice versa.

In recent years, some farmers on the Canadian prairie have shifted away from spring wheat, durum and barley in favor of the more-profitable corn, soybeans, canola and pulse crops.

Soybeans, which can be planted safely later in the spring than corn, will continue to gain acres in eastern Manitoba, says Bill Toews, who farms in the Red River Valley near Kane, Manitoba, a few miles north of the North Dakota border.

Potential corn acreage is more difficult to estimate, given potential planting delays,

“There definitely will be more corn and soybeans, with the bulk of it coming in eastern Manitoba,” says James Loewen, grain manager with Bunge Canada in Altona, Manitoba.

There will be more “experimenting” with the two crops to the north and west of eastern Manitoba, he says.

Wheat, canola

Loewen also expects to see a little more wheat and a little less canola planted this year.

Relatively attractive wheat prices last fall created expectations that Canadian wheat acres would rise in 2013. But wheat prices stumbled this winter, and the increase of wheat acres might not be as large as once expected, Jubinville says.

Also working in favor of wheat acres this year is the frequency with which some Canadian farmers have planted canola, he says.

“Canola has been pushed pretty hard. Some growers have been planting canola on canola,” or planting it on the same field two or more years in a row, he says.

Planting the same crop on a field year after year can lead to disease and insect problems. That threat would be reduced by planting a different crop.

William Nicholson, who farms near Shoal Lake, Manitoba, about 70 miles northwest of Brandon, says he expects to stick close with his scheduled rotation of barley, wheat, canola and green peas.

Still, potential planting delays could cause him to plant a little more barley and a little less wheat and canola, he says.

In a normal year, Nicholson says, he’s planting by May 1. This year, because of heavy, slow-to-melt snow, he doesn’t expect to be planting until mid- or late May.

He notes that the cost of land and other inputs have continued to rise, while crop prices have held steady or fallen.

“It’s somewhat discouraging,” he says.

The immediate concern, however, is the persistent snow cover that blocks planting.

“Everybody would love to have it melted already,” Loewen says.