Winter wheat trumps all other crops again

Grower enthusiasm for new crops hasn’t quenched winter wheat support

BRANDON — The expansion of corn and soybeans acres across the Prairies has received a lot of media attention in recent years, but the hype but not might be well-founded.


“There’s been a lot of interest in those two crops here in western Manitoba and into Saskatchewan, but you have to look at the profitability picture,” said Ken Gross, an agronomist with Ducks Unlimited in Brandon.


“Looking at the data, it shows soybeans ranking 14th in terms of profitability last year. Corn was ranked 19th in profitability. Corn is dead last of all the main crops grown in this corner of the province,” he said.


“Winter wheat was the most profitable crop in southwestern Manitoba by a wide margin in 2013 and also 2012. According to Manitoba Agriculture, winter wheat had a net return of $46.45 per acre, based on an estimated average yield of 57.5 bushels at a price of $6.20 per bu.” 


Winter wheat had an operating expense ratio of 49 percent, which was by far the lowest of all crops. In contrast, the operating expense ratio was 83.5 percent for soybeans and127.9 percent for corn.


The trend was much the same in Saskatchewan, where winter wheat was the most profitable crop in the black soil zone, according to data released by the provincial agriculture ministry.


Winter wheat was the No. 1 money maker when the ministry released the first draft of its 2014 Crop Planning Guide, but canola bumped it to No. 2 when the final version was published in mid-February. All cost factors remained the same, but the projected market price dropped to $4.39 from $5.50 per bu. 


Gross said growers’ enthusiasm for corn should be tempered by a cold water splash of reality. He urges farmers to do an honest budget that includes all fixed costs and operating costs before making the commitment. 


“If profitability is your main criteria in deciding what to grow, you can’t ignore winter wheat. It’s too late for this year of course, but it is the right time now to start planning your winter wheat crop for August seeding.” 


For more information, contact Gross at 701-729-3507.

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