Yield reports may fuel 2020 acreage shifts

The crop production numbers released Dec. 6 by Statistics Canada will provide lots of fodder for market analysts. Beyond the supply and price analysis, it’s instructive to examine the surprising differences in crop yields for various crops across the three prairie provinces.

Flax yields are particularly interesting. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, flax yields for 2019 as reported by StatsCan are below the previous five-year average. Saskatchewan’s flax yield is pegged at only 21.6 bushels an acre, while Manitoba is only a little bit better at 23.3. This compares to the five-year averages of 22.9 and 26.8, respectively.

Manitoba used to be the major flax-growing province, but Saskatchewan now grows about 10 times more than Manitoba. Alberta’s flax acreage has surpassed Manitoba’s in recent years and Alberta is showing substantially better yield results. StatsCan estimates Alberta’s 2019 flax yield as 30.1 bu. per acre, while the previous five-year average is 28.8. With these sorts of results, you have to wonder if flax acreage will continue to migrate west.

Several other Alberta crops had below average yield results this year, particularly lentils and mustard. This is probably related to dry conditions in southern growing regions. The lentil yield is reported at only 958 pounds per acre, way below the 1,505 lb. average. Mustard is only 609 lb. per acre, as compared with the previous five-year average of 867. In both crops, 2019 was the lowest yield of the past six years.

By comparison, Saskatchewan’s lentil yield was 1,336 lb. per acre with mustard at 834. In both cases, the yields are comparable to the five-year averages.

Wheat, oats and barley all registered above average yields in all three provinces. Canola was slightly below average in Alberta and Manitoba and slightly above average in Saskatchewan.

The big field pea provinces are Saskatchewan with 2.3 million seeded acres and Alberta with 1.8 million seeded acres this year. Manitoba has a large pea protein facility under construction at Portage la Prairie and while pea acreage has been increasing a bit in recent years, 2019 saw a mere 126,000 acres, less than three percent of the prairie total.

However, pea yields in Manitoba were very good this year and that may bode well for increasing the acreage in 2020 and beyond. StatsCan is reporting a Manitoba pea yield of 49.4 bu. an acre, as compared to the five-year average of 42.

Saskatchewan’s pea yield was 37 bu. an acre, slightly above the five-year average of 34.4. Meanwhile, Alberta’s pea yield this year was 35.5, below the five-year average of 40.

While it was a good year for peas in Manitoba, it was not a good year for soybeans. After huge growth, soybean acreage has been retrenching the last few years, dropping to slightly less than 1.5 million acres in the province in 2019. This year’s yield of 29.2 bu. an acre is the lowest of the past six years, well below the 35.8 acreage.

Soybean acreage in Saskatchewan has fallen from 850,000 acres in 2017 to just 150,000 this year with most of that in the southeastern corner of the province. However, Saskatchewan’s soybean yield result of 28.3 bu. an acre was better than the five-year average of 24.4.

It’s human nature to remember your most recent yield results when planning for the subsequent growing season. Perhaps that will continue to fuel the shift to more flax in Alberta and more peas in Manitoba.

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