Even though yields are down and the price is not inspiring, canola is the crop that will pay the bills on a lot of prairie farms this year.
However, if you farm in an area that can grow large green lentils or chickpeas, those crops show returns that eclipse canola.
While the recent estimates from Statistics Canada show average canola yields of around 39 bushels per acre in both Alberta and Manitoba, Saskatchewan’s average yield is pegged at only 32, reduced from the five-year average due to hot, dry weather.
Assuming a canola price of $10.50 a bushel, the average canola crop in Saskatchewan generates a gross return of around $336 an acre.
That towers over most other crops, but it must be noted that with high seed costs and a high nitrogen requirement, canola is more expensive to grow than many other crops.
Saskatchewan’s average spring wheat yield is estimated at 37.5 bushels an acre. Assuming a price of $6.50, that’s a gross return of $240 an acre.
Durum has a much lower average yield of 27 bushels per acre because it’s grown predominately in southern areas more affected by drought. Durum prices have been dropping quickly.
Whereas, $9 a bushel was available for some of the first durum harvested, the price now appears to be in the $7.60 range generating an average gross return of just $205 an acre.
StatsCan pegs the average barley yield in Saskatchewan at about 57 bushels an acre, well below Alberta’s 68 bushels and the 70 bushels assumed to be the average in Manitoba.
In many areas of Saskatchewan, a feed barley price of around $3.30 appears to be available, generating an uninspiring gross return of just $188 an acre.
If you’re able to sell your barley for malting, the economics improve substantially.
The average flaxseed yield in Saskatchewan is only 18 bushels per acre, far below the 29 bushels estimated for Alberta. At 18 bushels an acre and a price of around $12 a bushel, the average gross return is only $216 an acre.
Soybean acreage increased dramatically in Saskatchewan this year, but the early yield estimate of 24 bushels per acre isn’t stellar. Assuming a local price of around $10.50 an acre, the average soybean return is around $252 an acre.
In Manitoba, it’s easy to see why soybeans have quickly become an important crop. The average soybean yield in that province is estimated at 36 bushels per acre, just a few bushels behind canola.
On lentils, there’s a huge difference in gross return between the red and green types. The red lentil price has slipped to around 21 cents a pound. With a StatsCan estimated yield of 1,166 pounds per acre, red lentils generate a gross return of $244 an acre.
The price for a No. 2 large green lentil is almost exactly double at around 42 cents a lb., generating a gross return of $489 an acre. In fairness, red lentils typically yield a bit better than large greens and they’re less expensive to grow because of lower seed costs. Still, large green profitability is going to be far ahead of the reds.
Among the field crops reported by StatsCan, the gross return winner by a mile is chickpeas. Average yield is estimated at 1,225 lb an acre. Kabuli chickpeas currently have bids around 63 cents a lb., generating a gross return of $772 an acre, more than double that of canola.
Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.