Red Spring class again dominates insured wheat acres

Western Canadian grain farmers insured more than 17.7 million acres of wheat last year, up slightly from 17.6 million in 2014.

About 11.4 million were Canada Western Red Spring varieties, 4.1 million were Canada Western Amber Durum, 800,000 were Canada Prairie Spring and 1.3 million were varieties from minor classes.

The numbers are contained in the 2015 Insured Acreage Report prepared by the Canadian Grain Commission.

“In wheat, what we have noticed is that red spring wheat acres continue to be about 65 percent of the total wheat acres insured,” said Daryl Beswitherick of the grain commission.

“Durum went up this year from about 17 percent to about 23 percent of total wheat acres.… We’re not exactly sure why producers decided to grow more durum (in 2015), but price generally dictates what producers are going to grow.”

The commission has been publishing the acreage report since 2013. It compiles data from provincial crop insurance programs in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Beswitherick said the report fills an information void that was created when the Canadian Wheat Board stopped publishing its annual variety survey in 2012.

“It lists all the varieties that are grown within the different crops types,” he said.

“The CGC felt that this was something that was still needed by the industry, so we took on the responsibility of putting together the annual (report) with the help of provincial crop insurance programs.”

As usual, Canada’s two primary wheat classes accounted for the lion’s share of last year’s insured wheat. Together, CWRS and CWAD accounted for nearly 15.6 million insured wheat acres.

Harvest was the most widely in-sured red spring variety, accounting for nearly 1.1 million acres, or 10 percent of all CWRS acres insured last year.

It is one of 24 CWRS varieties that will move to the new Canada Northern Hard Red Spring milling wheat class Aug. 1, 2018.

Other CWRS cultivars to be re-classified include Lillian, which accounted for five percent of total CWRS acres insured last year, and Unity, which accounted for three percent.

It remains to be seen whether varieties designated to the new milling wheat class will command a lower price than premium CWRS varieties.

Cultivars in the CNHRS class will have lower gluten strength than varieties in the CWRS class.

“Producers have a couple of years to start to transition (away from Harvest, Lillian and Unity) if they wish to,” said Beswitherick.

“Harvest, Lillian and Unity may still be a viable option (for some growers).… If they grow well in certain regions and the price dictates that they’re still a viable option, then producers may still want to grow them.”

It normally takes a few years for a new variety to gain interest among producers, even among varieties that offer significant advantages in terms of agronomy, disease resistance and yield potential.

Beswitherick said the life cycle of a popular wheat variety is usually five to seven years.

Malting barley varieties are even slower to gain favour among growers, largely because maltsters and brewers determine a variety’s marketability based on end-use performance.

Peter Watts, managing director of the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre, said new varieties with improved quality characteristics, better yield potential and enhanced disease packages are available in Canada.

However, older established varieties such as Copeland and Metcalfe will continue to command large acres in Western Canada until demand for the new varieties improves among maltsters and brewers.

“Both the brewers and the malting companies are the ones that ultimately decide what’s in demand and what they want to buy,” Watts said.

“From the producer’s perspective, if a variety moves, then producers will continue growing that variety because of the movement, but not always for the yield or the disease package.”

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  • Manitoba
  • Carberry: 543,000
  • Cardale: 516,000
  • Harvest: 334,000
  • Brandon: 259,000
  • Glenn: 247,000
  • Saskatchewan
  • Utmost: 675,000
  • Carberry: 379,000
  • Shaw: 318,000
  • Unity: 286,000
  • Lillian: 283,000
  • Harvest: 276,000
  • Alberta
  • Stettler: 896,000
  • Go: 621,000
  • Harvest: 471,000
  • Muchmore: 271,000
  • Lillian: 237,000

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