Man. growers seek unique hybrid rye crop insurance

Hybrid rye is becoming more popular with prairie growers, thanks to higher yields and potentially more profit.

However, it’s also more expensive to grow hybrid rye than open-pollinated rye because seed and fertilizer costs are higher.

With greater yields and costs comes greater financial risk, which is why producers in Manitoba want a different crop insurance program for hybrid rye.

Keystone Agricultural Producers, at an early November meeting in Portage la Prairie, passed a resolution asking the group’s leaders to lobby for a separate insurance category for hybrid rye, distinct from open-pollinated rye.

Doug Wilcox, manager of program development with Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp., the provincial crop insurer, said the organization is aware of the issue. He said MASC needs more information before it makes a decision.

“We’re observing higher yields. So, we’ll continue to monitor the crop and once we get enough experience (with it) we will revisit the issue of whether we need to offer a separate program,” he said.

In 2016-17, hybrid rye represented about 30 percent of all fall rye acres in Manitoba. Growers are choosing to grow hybrid rye, which was introduced into Western Canada a few years ago, because yields are 20 to 25 percent higher than open-pollinated rye.

“This year (2016), let’s say the (open pollinated) varieties had an exceptional yield with an average 75 bu., and let’s say the hybrids averaged 100 bu.,” said Rod Merryweather, chief executive officer of FP Genetics, which sells hybrid rye varieties to producers.

FP Genetics has been lobbying provincial crop insurers to better accommodate hybrid rye.

“We’ve started some work… to try and move that forward,” said Denise Schmidt, national sales manager with FP Genetics. “It’s great to hear that producers are looking at different avenues to try and bring that forward.”

Yields may be higher, but Wilcox isn’t sure if a separate insurance category is necessary.

It’s not like grain corn and corn grown for forage, where the crops are used for different purposes.

“For rye, whether hybrid rye or traditional rye, the markets are the same,” he said.

“We’re open to the idea of somehow recognizing (hybrid) rye separately, down the road. But it might not be a separate program. It might just be enhanced coverage within the existing program.”

MASC isn’t ready to make that decision yet.

In the meantime, growers of hybrid rye will likely qualify for additional insurance coverage.

“If they are getting higher yields, it will quickly be picked up through the IPI (individual productivity index),” he said. “Your IPI factor would be higher and therefore you would end up with higher coverage.”

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