The amount of corn harvested on the plains of Manitoba has nearly tripled since 2010, but this season’s late start will see that growth falter, at least for this year.
The industry is expecting to see a major jump in the province’s corn production in the coming years and seed companies have ramped up research to develop corn suitable for Manitoba’s climate.
But according to seeding intentions statistics released by Statistics Canada recently, 300,000 acres of corn for grain is expected this season — a 21 per cent drop from last year’s stats, a drop Theresa Bergsma, general manager of the Manitoba Corn Growers Association, mainly attributes to the lingering cool weather.
"Some will keep it in their rotation, they’ll do their best to get it in, but certainly new growers aren’t going to try it on a year like this when it continues to stay cooler."
Corn prices, she said, are also playing a role in corn performance this year.
"It’s been a slow but steady increase, and a lot depends on where that price goes ... but I can’t see us going up a lot this year."
According to the province’s market index, corn farmers gained a net return of $157 per tonne in Winnipeg, a significant drop from this time last year when it was $248.
Bergsma said seed modification has reached a "plateau" and it’ll be another five to 10 years before the industry sees another massive leap forward.
"We’ve had pledges from a couple of companies that have said they’re working on reducing the heat units in their earlier varieties, but we’ve reached a plateau and it has to go down more first before we see a big increase and see a big expansion."
Dan Mazier, vice-president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, dabbled in corn two years ago on his farm in Justice and said he was "very pleased" with his crop and expects a breakthrough sooner.
"It is coming," he said.
"The genetics have fast-forwarded a lot in the last few years, but I know lots of guys growing now, and quite far north."
The dropped price, he said, isn’t the end of the world and farmers with corn crops right now will still see a healthy return, but agrees it will be another deterrent for farmers to add more crops.
Statistics Canada’s annual spring survey of farmers’ crop-planting intentions shows Manitoba producers expect to seed 1.3 million acres of soybeans this year. That would be an increase of 23.8 per cent from 2013’s record of 1.1 million acres, and would be the sixth straight year of record soybean acreage.
But there is expected to be an even bigger jump this year in the number of acres devoted to dry beans, sunflower seed and flax, the survey found.
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The number of grain corn acres that have been harvested in the province in recent years.
• 2005 — 95,636
• 2006 — 132,421
• 2007 — 167,052
• 2008 — 187,644
• 2009 — 134,591
• 2010 — 102,172
• 2011 — 173,000
• 2012 — 262,179
• 2013 — 299,818 (numbers not finalized, about 334,600 acres were planted)
» Government of Manitoba