Disease avoidance important factor in seeding plans

Lots of farmers don’t want to grow durum this summer.

Few blame them, considering the hit they took last fall when they discovered that their crops were badly damaged by fusarium.

However, can farmers in southwestern Saskatchewan and other durum-growing pockets really switch many acres into other crops?

“There’s definitely that rumour,” said Brandon Motz of CorNine Commodities.

“I don’t think the industry knows how to manage it.”

High fusarium durum is knocked out of the milling market and becomes a discounted feedgrain. That’s a big disappointment for farmers who look at durum as a premium crop, and it’s not something growers want to face again.

However what could farmers switch to?

“There are people talking about growing canaryseed to get away from growing durum,” said Alan Johnston of Johnston’s Grain.

However, it wouldn’t be good for an already weakening canary crop price if many did that.

“I tell them that if they do that, we’ll see canaryseed prices of five or 10 cents a pound (compared to today’s 19 to 20),” he said.

Jim Beusekom of Market Place Commodities can’t think of many other crops that would fill the cereal role in a farmer’s rotation.

“I don’t know where else they’ll put the durum acres,” said Beusekom. “They’re not going to go to barley.”

He expects to see some farmers switch from durum to hard red spring wheat north of the Trans-Canada Highway in Saskatchewan, but some Alberta farmers may also plant more durum this spring.

However, the extreme problems with disease in pulse and grain crops last summer, which he described as “unprecedented,” does mean that farmers’ rotations might swing around this spring for reasons other than price. 

“It’s not nearly as price-based as disease-based this year,” said Beusekom.

Farmers might take more care to not tighten rotations of disease-prone crops this year, but with pulse crops, grains and canola all facing disease pressure, there is no obvious disease-resistant crop choice for farmers, the analysts said.

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