Man. soybean acreage still shrinking

Soybeans are going through a rough patch in Manitoba.

Seeded acres could drop by 400,000 because hundreds of growers had disappointing yields in 2019.

“I’m thinking we’re going to see just under a million acres. Maybe around 900,000,” said Dennis Lange, pulse crop specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.

Lange shared his prediction in the hallways of Crop Connect, a Feb. 12-13 conference in Winnipeg for commodity associations in Manitoba, including groups that represent growers of canola, wheat and barley, pulses, soybeans, sunflowers, flax and corn.

If Lange is correct, it would be the first time since 2012 that soybean acres in Manitoba fell below one million. Only three years ago, in the spring of 2017, Manitoba farmers seeded 2.3 million acres of soybeans.

Seeded acres have been tumbling because of weaker prices, but mostly due to yield.

In 2015 and 2016, average yields in Manitoba were around 40 bushels per acre.

Since then, yields have crept downward:

  • 34 bu. per acre average in 2017
  • 31 bu. per acre in 2018
  • 8 bu. per acre in 2019

The 2019 average is based on information from Yield Manitoba, which uses data from Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp., the provincial crop insurer.

With dry soils and cool temperatures last May and June, soybeans struggled to develop in the early stages of the growing season. Then, the middle of the summer was too dry. Soybeans need rain in late July and early August for pod fill.

September was a wet month and 25 to 50 centimetres of snow fell before the Thanksgiving weekend.

“Not a lot (of soybeans) got harvested before the snowfall. Most of it was harvested after,” Lange said.

Producers likely lost a few bushels of yield in the abnormal fall from aborted and shattered pods.

“In my own area, we had some 15-bu. yields,” said Lange, who lives near Altona.

Lange offered no acreage forecast for Saskatchewan.

Many Saskatchewan growers recorded soybean yields of 10 to 20 bu. per acre in 2017 and 2018, dampening enthusiasm for the crop.

“We can’t get the yield out of them,” said Howie Mercer, FarmLink marketing adviser in southeastern Saskatchewan. “We don’t get the rains when we need them. Other crops have more forgiveness than soybeans.”

Saskatchewan acres hit a high of 850,000 in 2017, declining to 400,000 acres in 2018 and about 150,000 last year.

Assuming Lange is correct, 400,000 acres could be available for other crops in Manitoba.

Edible beans and other pulses may partly fill the void, he said.

“We’ll probably see a few more peas.”

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