The release of Statistics Canada’s production estimates and yield and production estimates from Saskatchewan Agriculture allow early comparisons to be made on the relative profitability of cropping options.
According to the numbers, lentils are king.
Yields have been reduced by drought, particularly in west-central Saskatchewan, but the provincial average is being pegged at 1,150 pounds an acre. Assuming an average price of 36 cents, that’s a gross return of $414 an acre.
It’s interesting to note that Alberta’s lentil acreage increased 99 percent this year, but the province only has 215,000 acres compared to 3.6 million in Saskatchewan. Lentils can’t be grown everywhere, but a lot more of them could be grown in Alberta.
Yellow pea prices are strong at around $9.25 a bushel, but the crop doesn’t match the returns of the lentils. Average pea yields in Saskatchewan are in the 29 bu. per acre range for a gross of about $268 per acre.
Among the cereals, barley is more competitive than usual. Saskatchewan Agriculture pegs average barley yields at 57 bu. per acre. The feed price in the province has declined to around $3.50 a bu. in most regions, but that’s still a gross return of nearly $200 an acre.
Prices of around $5.50 are being reported for malting barley, which will generate a gross return of more than $300 an acre, assuming an average yield.
Meanwhile, spring wheat, with a provincial average of 34 bu. per acre and a prevailing price of around $5.75, is generating a gross that is comparable to feed barley at around $200 an acre.
Provincial durum yields of 25 bu. per acre are lower than spring wheat because durum is concentrated in the areas that lacked for rain. However, assuming a price of $8.80 for good quality durum, the gross comes to around $220 an acre.
Last year, durum had serious fusarium problems that dramatically dropped grades. Fewer disease issues are expected this year. The price strength makes it an obvious winner over spring wheat in key areas.
Oat returns are lower than the other cereals. With a yield of 84 bu. per acre and prevailing prices of $2.25, the gross comes to $189 per acre.
Among oilseed crops, mustard comes out as the most profitable. Acreage and production are down sharply in both Saskatchewan and Alberta, but prices are strong, ranging from 32 to 45 cents a pound, with brown at the bottom, oriental in the middle and yellow at the top.
Yield estimates show a large variation between Saskatchewan Agriculture’s 1,150 pounds an acre and Statistic Canada’s 818. Taking the lower Statistics Canada yield and assuming an average price of 40 cents generates a gross return of $327 an acre.
Canola in Saskatchewan at 30 bu. per acre and $10.50 a bu. comes to $315. Canola is more expensive than mustard to grow, but weed control is much easier.
Flax at 20 bu. per acre and a price of $13.25 generates a gross return of $265 an acre, which is lower than the other two oilseeds.
Prices will continue to change and you may be seeing different price quotes than those used in this analysis. Of course, the numbers on your farm are what really matter.