Fusarium takes toll on durum

Agriculture Canada’s first forecast of 2017 seeded acres sees less durum and lentils and more oilseeds and wheat.

“It feels like this is the year where people that have pushed the rotations are going to be wanting to get those back in line,” said Greg Kostal, president of Kostal Ag Consulting.

Canola leads the way with a forecast of 21 million acres, up slightly from last year’s 20.37 million acres.

Kostal said there is unlikely to be big swings in canola because rotations have been pushed about as far as they can go.

Wheat will be the second largest crop at 17.79 million acres, up from 17.09 million acres last year.

The six percent increase in spring wheat area will more than offset a 12 percent decrease in winter wheat plantings.

Spring wheat will take land away from durum, which is forecast to drop to 5.26 million acres from 6.19 million the previous year.

Kostal believes it will be a steeper decline, down to 4.5 million acres.

“People are stating they have to get out of durum because of quality. They just can’t break the fusarium cycle,” he said.

Agriculture Canada believes farmers will plant 6.18 million acres of barley, down slightly from the previous year.

Kostal has no quibble with that estimate. It just continues the decades-long trend of declining barley acres.

“Higher-yielding mid-quality wheats are outstripping the economics of feed barley,” he said.

Soybeans are forecast to climb to 6.02 million acres from 5.47 million last year. Kostal thinks most of the increase will be in Ontario.

Lentil plantings are forecast to fall 1.5 percent to 5.56 million acres from 5.86 million acres, while peas will drop slightly to 4.2 million acres.

Kostal has no problem with the pea number but he thinks the lentil area will be closer to five million acres because growers pushed rotations too far last year and root rot has become a big problem.

Carl Potts, executive director of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, has seen forecasts calling for a 10 percent reduction in lentil plantings following a 46 percent increase last year and a 29 percent increase the year before.

“As prices have come down off of those highs, we may lose some of those lentil acres in fringe lentil growing regions,” he said.

Potts concurred with Agriculture Canada’s forecast of a slight drop in pea area.

“I would be quite surprised to see increases in either of those crops based on the market conditions we see right now,” he said.

Growers are expected to plant 3.03 million acres of oats, up from 2.83 million acres.

“That’s just a function of price,” said Kostal, noting that there are new crop bids of $3 per bushel.

Agriculture Canada is forecasting 1.05 million acres of flax, up from 935,000 acres last year. Kostal thinks it will be closer to 1.25 million acres because prices are good.

He agreed with the mustard estimate of 395,369 acres, down from 525,000, but thought the canaryseed estimate of 271,816 acres, down from 260,000, was too low.

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