Wheat acres could climb this spring

Canola’s loss could be spring wheat’s gain come spring, says an analyst.

Bruce Burnett, director of markets and weather with Glacier’s MarketsFarm, was already forecasting a year-over-year increase in spring wheat acres in 2019 before China banned Canadian canola.

Now he expects an even bigger swing.

“That’s the wild card in this thing. You could see even more spring wheat go in because of that,” he said.

“Wheat is sort of an old reliable and certainly given the market volatility that we’ve seen I think farmers are maybe looking at that aspect of things.”

Burnett is forecasting a six percent increase in spring wheat plantings over last year’s 17.3 million acres. The extra one million acres will come at the expense of durum and canola.

The dry regions of the Prairies got some snow this winter but it was below normal precipitation. Fortunately, there will be moisture to start the year off.

“But generally speaking, our subsoil moisture in the central and southern grain belt is really low,” he said.

The Canadian Drought Monitor shows that most of the southern Prairies is experiencing abnormally dry conditions with pockets of moderate to severe drought.

That may also help boost spring wheat area. Durum is the best crop to grow in those conditions, but spring wheat is a good second choice, especially when wheat prices are outperforming durum.

Burnett said it appears that most farmers will be able to get into the fields around the normal time with the exception of the Red River Valley, where seeding will be delayed.

South of the border it is a different story. Seeding could be significantly delayed because much of the spring wheat crop is planted in the Red River Valley regions of North Dakota and Montana where some areas received double the normal winter snowfall.

In North Dakota projections are for a slight increase in acreage, up two percent from last year, to 6.7 million acres, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s first planting intentions report, delivered March 29. In Minnesota producers plan to plant about 1.53 million acres, down 80,000 from last year. Montana is expected to plant 2.6 million acres, down 10 percent.

Overall, American farmers say they plan to seed 12.4 million acres of hard red spring wheat, and 400,000 acres of other springs, not including durum. That will be down three percent from 2018’s crop.

Durum will be down 31 percent from last year in the U.S. to 1.42 million acres.

Arlan Suderman of commodities specialists INTL FCStone feels the potentially soggy start to the seeding season may limit what producers can actually plant and might cut into spring wheat acres in the northern Plains states.

“And when it comes to durum, there is no incentive to plant it,” he said.

As of late last week there was still snow to be melted and most rivers and streams were not yet at the flood stage.

“It’s going to take some time here for all of this water to accumulate and move off the fields,” said Burnett.

The weather has been ideal for minimizing flooding with above freezing temperatures during the day and cold at night. But that causes further delays in drying down fields.

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