Prairie soybeans poised for growth

Growers hunt for seed | More than 1.5 million acres of soybeans could be seeded on the Prairies in 2014

Seed sales in Saskatchewan and grower intentions in Manitoba indicate that soybean area on the Prairies could exceed 1.5 million acres this spring.

Claude Durand, product development manager with NorthStar Genetics, one of the largest soybean seed dealers in Manitoba, said sales in Saskatchewan are booming.

“Already, our seed bookings in Sask-atchewan have doubled over last year,” he said at the NorthStar booth at Manitoba Ag Days, the annual ag expo in Brandon, during the third week of January.

NorthStar usually sells most of its soybean seed before Christmas, but this year has been exceptional.

“Typically at this time of year, most of our (seed) bookings are done. We’re still getting bookings in, especially out west,” Durand said.

Saskatchewan farmers planted an estimated 170,000 acres of soybeans last year. If NorthStar sales are indicative of grower adoption, Saskatchewan acres may hit 350,000 this year.

Dennis Lange, a Manitoba Agriculture farm production adviser who spoke at Ag Days, polled soybean growers in the audience to gauge planting intentions.

The largest share of growers said they plan to increase their soybean acres by 10 to 30 percent, which mirrors Lange’s expectations.

Manitoba area will increase from 1.08 million acres last year to 1.3 million this year if it’s assumed that seeding will rise 20 percent, which is the mid-range of estimates.

When combining the early estimates, 1.65 million acres of beans might be planted in Manitoba and Saskatchewan this spring.

Lange told the Ag Days meeting it is possible for Manitoba to reach two million acres of soybeans, but it will likely take five or more years.

“We have to manage our rotations; you can’t just flop all of your acres to one crop,” he said.

“(Plus), you’ve got to learn a lot of things when you start growing a new crop.”

Soybean industry representatives have said further acreage gains would have to occur outside Manitoba’s Red River Valley because that region is nearly maxed out.

Those expectations became reality last year when the rural municipalities of Dauphin and Bifrost in Manitoba’s Interlake posted the biggest acreage gains of all RMs relative to 2012.

Lange also listed 25 RMs that had sizable acreage gains last year, many of which were in non-traditional soybean regions, including southwestern Manitoba.

On the negative side, many farmers planted varieties that weren’t appropriate for their growing region.

Durand said supply of early maturing varieties was insufficient last year because the 2012 drought in Manitoba constricted soybean seed replication.

Soybean yields averaged 39 bushels per acre last year in the province, boosting the amount and variety of seed available this winter.

Still, Durand said growers shouldn’t wait much longer to book seed because supplies of early maturing varieties are dwindling.