Strong price sparks record Manitoba corn area

Manitoba will likely shatter a 30-year-old record for corn acres this year, but provincial observers aren’t convinced the crop will reach projected figures from Statistics Canada.


In its June 27 estimate of field crops, Statistics Canada noted that grain corn acres would hit 300,000 in Manitoba, easily surpassing the previous high of 225,000 acres set in 1981. The estimate is based on phone surveys of producers, which were conducted before June 7.


Morgan Cott, a research agronomist with the Manitoba Corn Growers Association, said the Statistics Canada estimate caught the local corn industry off guard. 


“It sounds high. It’s higher than we were expecting it to be,” she said, noting the association was anticipating 250,000 acres of corn in Manitoba.


“I think it’s definitely possible to be over 250,000.”


The Statistics Canada number also surprised Myron Krahn, who farms near Carman, Man., and is vice-president of the corn growers association. The estimate may change after better data emerges later in the growing season, but Krahn said the gains may be a sign of things to come for Manitoba’s corn industry.


More producers are growing corn because it makes more economic sense than other cereal crops in the rotation, said Krahn, who planted 500 acres of corn on his 2,000 acre farm this spring.


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“In relation to oats or wheat, even though those prices aren’t terrible either, corn just pencils out to be that much better.”


In comparison to spring wheat, for instance, Chicago corn in early July was trading at $6.75 per bushel, while Minneapolis Grain Exchange wheat was trading $9 per bu.


Despite the $2.25 per bu. difference in price, corn has a massive yield advantage over wheat.


“It used to be, when I was younger, that if we hit 100 bu. that was a bumper crop,” Krahn said.


“But now you expect a minimum of a 100 bu. per acre and we have top yields around 140.”


In the Carman area, most growers normally achieve yields of 100 to 130 bu. per acre. 


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As well, corn growers don’t have the headache of quality and downgrading when they deliver their crop.


“Quality isn’t as critical as a milling wheat,” Krahn said. “There’s no quality issues if you’re sending it to Husky for ethanol.”


Cott thinks new growers are driving up acreage.


“I think it’s just trying to get into that special crops thing. To be not the standard cereal/oilseed (producer).”


Krahn said more producers may be convinced to grow corn if acres reach 300,000 and yields hit 130 bu. or higher this fall.


“Corn is a bit of a sexy crop,” he said.


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“If the yields come and the neighbours are getting those yields, it’s too tempting for a producer not to expand his acres.”