When you crunch the numbers for Saskatchewan using provincial average yields and current grain prices, lentils come out as the clear winner.
The yields in the accompanying table are from Saskatchewan Agriculture’s latest crop report with the exception of canola and durum. On those crops, the provincial yield estimates are well below those of Statistics Canada so an average of the two sources was used.
Prices from a number of sources were viewed with an attempt to represent the return at the farmgate after accounting for trucking. Prices and freight vary so these are only estimates.
The variable cost in dollars per acre comes from Saskatchewan Agriculture’s 2020 Crop Planning Guide published this spring. In most cases, the costs from the dark brown soil zone were used in the calculation.
The input costs are high and assume a grower is aiming for top yields. In addition to seed, fertilizer and crop protection products, the number includes machinery fuel and repair as well as custom work and hired labour. Everyone’s variable costs will be different, but the publication provides a common source for comparison purposes.
Note that the margin per acre is not profit. It’s what remains to pay all the other expenses on the farm. Saskatchewan Agriculture estimates those at around $140 an acre in the dark brown soil zone.
Yield estimates lump all lentils and all mustards together. That’s why the same yield is assumed for red lentils and large green lentils. For mustard, the yellow types yield less, but have a higher price. With yellow mustard worth about 40 cents a pound and brown mustard worth about 30 cents a lb., a price of 35 cents was used in the calculation.
At the assumed provincial yield, soybeans do not cover variable costs and yellow peas show only a small margin. They are at the bottom of the pack.
The standout is lentils. A provincial average yield of 1,548 lb. an acre is not exceptional at just below 26 bushels, but prices have improved dramatically and the variable expenses per acre are relatively low.
There are farms with 70 bu. durum, 55 bu. canola or 2,200 lb. canaryseed and that will be their best performing crop. On average, however, lentils appear to be the star performer.
Kevin Hursh is an agricultural journalist, consultant and farmer. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.