Average corn crop expected in Manitoba

Corn yields could be around average this year in Manitoba, which is positive considering a major frost hit much of the province in early September.

Early reports suggest yields are 120 to 160 bushels per acre in the province’s Red River Valley, said Morgan Cott, agronomy extension specialist with the Manitoba Crop Alliance.

Frost arrived in Manitoba Sept. 7-8, with temperatures dropping to -1 to -5 C. The frost was most severe in western regions, with many areas hitting -4 to -5 C.

In eastern parts of the province, the frost arrived at the right time for corn. Much of the crop had just reached the black layer stage, or physiological maturity, so the frost caused minimal damage.

“It’s called black layer. It’s when the cells at the base of the corn kernel, at the pointy tip, the cells have died so nothing is entering the grain anymore and nothing is leaving,” Cott said.

Stresses such as frost have little impact on yield once the black layer stage is reached.

Early September is relatively early for corn to achieve physiological maturity, but it was a hot and dry summer in Manitoba. By the first week of September many regions had recorded corn heat units of 2,400 to 2,600, more than normal for the growing season, based on data from Manitoba Agriculture’s crop report.

As well, precipitation from May 1 was below average at most locations. The heat and lack of moisture may have accelerated crop maturity.

Regardless of what happened, yields of 120 to 160 bu. per acre are welcome.

“No bin busters, but (for) those high ends, (producers) are quite happy with it,” Cott said.

The agriculture department’s crop report for Oct. 6 had similar estimates. In the central region, harvested corn fields were producing 130 to 140 bu. per acre.

In the eastern area, some farmers reported 150 bu. per acre.

As of the first week of October, only eight percent of Manitoba’s corn crop was harvested.

Seeded acres of grain corn were around 306,000 in 2020, so it’s too early to estimate average yields across the province.

It’s unlikely that yields will compare to 2015 or 2016, when the provincial average was close to 140 bu. per acre and many producers hit 170 bu. or higher.

The early September frost probably caused more damage to corn fields in western Manitoba because freezing temperatures were more severe than the eastern side of the province.

Soybeans, another late maturing crop, are performing relatively well in western Manitoba, despite the frost.

Yield reports from the southwest and northwest are 35 to 40 bu. per acre, better than 2017-19 when drought hammered the province’s soybean crop. Many farmers had soybean yields in the 20s those years, with provincial averages ranging from 27 to 33 bu. per acre.

Soybean production is even better in central and eastern Manitoba this fall. Many fields are producing yields in the 40s.

“This summer I saw some really tall beans in the central area (of Manitoba),” said Cassandra Tkachuk, production specialist with the Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers.

“I was able to find some four-bean pods. I haven’t seen that actually in a few years…. I think the main driver is just better moisture this year.”

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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