Soybean acres in Manitoba were poised to shrink earlier this year.
Now it seems they could expand.
Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers released an acreage estimate April 25, suggesting that soybean acres this spring could be higher than the 2.29 million planted in 2017.
The association didn’t provide a specific figure, but it’s assuming that acres will increase slightly.
“It’s trying to have a positive outlook without being completely off the mark,” said Cassandra Tkachuk, a production specialist with the association.
Dennis Lange, a Manitoba Agriculture soybean and pulse crop expert, said over the winter that soybean acres were likely to drop to two million acres this year. Average yields in Manitoba were down in 2017 because of dry growing conditions, especially in the critical month of August when soybeans need moisture for pod fill.
Soybean yields last year were mostly in the low to mid 30s, compared to yields in the 40s and low 50s in 2017.
Tkachuk said growing conditions were difficult for soybeans last year, but producers may be willing to give the crop another shot.
“There were a lot of brand new growers last year,” he said.
“I think that most of them want to try it again.”
Growers may be feeling more optimistic about beans because of the trade war between the United States and China.
The Chinese are threatening to hit U.S. soybean imports with a 25 percent tariff. That could provide an opportunity for western Canadian soybeans, which are shipped to China and other markets.
One concern this spring is dry soil conditions in Manitoba.
Subsoil moisture was average to below average in many parts of the province last fall. As well, with the exception of a dump of snowfall in March, it was a drier than normal winter.
“We are bracing ourselves for dry conditions,” Tkachuk said.
Manitoba soybean acres have gone from 1.05 million in 2013 to potentially more than 2.3 million this year. Since Manitoba only has 10 million acres of cropland, it’s likely that soybeans are nearing their acreage plateau, Tkachuk said.
Others think soybeans could go higher.
Lange has said acres could reach three million by 2023.
If he is right, soybeans could overtake canola as the most popular crop in Manitoba.