Grain corn acres will likely be flat in Manitoba this spring, which isn’t necessarily bad news because 2017 was a record year for acreage.
Most growers are feeling positive about corn because yields were better than expected last year.
“They’ve had pretty good corn crops the last number of years,” Ron Rabe, an agronomist in western Manitoba for Dekalb, said during Ag Days in Brandon.
“With the yields they’re getting, it still looks good compared to some of the other crops out there.”
Besides the solid yields, many corn growers have committed substantial dollars to grain dryers and planters, which reflects their intention to plant corn.
Manitoba farmers seeded 410,000 acres of grain corn last year, up from 345,000 in 2016.
Rabe estimated that grain corn acreage would jump slightly in southwestern Manitoba, possibly by five percent.
Acres across the province may be similar to last year.
“I think corn acres are going to be flat,” said Wendy Major, provincial sales manager for Thunder Seed.
“But definitely our corn (seed) sales are up.”
Growers are buying corn seed this winter because yields were solid last year.
Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp., the provincial crop insurer, reported an average yield of 134 bushels per acre.
That’s down from nearly 147 bu. per acre in 2016 but respectable for a growing season that was short on moisture.
Yields in western Manitoba are still lower than the Red River Valley, where producers now harvest 150 to 200 bu. per acre.
However, corn can generate positive returns in the cooler and drier regions outside of the valley.
“You start pulling off 130 to 150 bu. crops … that’s still pretty profitable,” Rabe said.
Part of Rabe’s job is to share the best agronomic practices with corn growers, and his go-to tip is about early season weed control.
Corn doesn’t compete well with weeds compared to cool season crops such as wheat and canola. As a result, controlling weeds early in the season is critical for preserving yield.
“People could be taking weeds out a lot earlier than they are,” Rabe said.
“Just go in and spray 10 days earlier. They (growers) can pick up another eight bu., or a tonne and a half of silage (from) just spraying earlier.”
However, Rabe said the existence of early maturing varieties won’t ignite an acreage boom.
“There are (corn) hybrids in the pipeline that are easily three or four days earlier than what we currently have…. That can vastly open up the acreage,” he said.
“(But) you have to have a (grain) dryer. That’s the one thing with corn…. It’s never going to be the fast (acreage) expansion like what we’ve seen with soybeans.”