The westward march of soybeans may have hit a blockade.
After a decade of continuous ex-pansion, soybean acres will likely decline this spring in Western Canada, say industry reps.
Seed sales this winter suggest acres will drop in Saskatchewan, and Manitoba acres will be stable.
“Industry people ask me, every week (I) get the question, what are soybeans (seed sales) doing?” said Kent McKay, co-manager of Double Diamond Farm Supply in Boissevain, Man.
“I’ve just said flat, flat and flat.”
Soybean seed sales have been worse than flat in Saskatchewan. Many farmers are forsaking beans and choosing lentils or peas.
Saskatchewan had 270,000 acres of soybeans last year, and many industry analysts expected that figure to jump substantially in the coming years.
That may still happen, but not this spring.
“We’re still taking orders and there’s still interest, but (sales) numbers generally don’t lie,” said Ray Wytinck, general manager of Northstar Genetics, one of the largest suppliers of soybean seed in Western Canada.
“It’s basic, simple farm economics…. If guys can sign a lentil contract for 40 cents a pound, that’s $24 a bushel. The potential returns would be higher (than soybeans).”
Soybean demand has been less than expected at Eggum Seed Sales in Halbrite, Sask. Growers have also done the math and decided to take a chance on lentils, which usually thrive in drier years and struggle when conditions are wet.
“Money changes everything,” said Brad Eggum, who runs Eggum Seed Sales. “With lentil prices getting to where they are… a lot of that weather risk is put to the side.”
Lentils and peas will likely cut into soybean acres in Saskatchewan but canola may be curtailing soybean expansion in Manitoba.
Double Diamond Farm Supply also has operations in Crystal City, Pilot Mound and Snowflake, Man. Those areas, near the U.S. border in south-central Manitoba, should be a prime area for soybeans, but many producers still prefer canola over beans, McKay said.
“The go-to habit is that canola is the money maker. I don’t see that changing.”