Canadian Perspectives: Late Seeding Issues in the Prairies

By: Mike Jubinville

May  21,  2014


Mike Jubinville is the editor of Pro Farmer Canada based out of Winnipeg. Mike formerly was employed as a cash merchant with what was then United Grain Growers. Mike also worked as an analyst with Manitoba Pool Elevators and market reporter with Resource News International and DowJones newswires out of Winnipeg and Chicago. He started Pro Farmer Canada in 1997 to provide independent market analysis and commentary for Prairie farmers. Click here to email Mike.

The CWB reports that weather in Western Canada was mixed last week, with good planting conditions through most of the week followed by rains on the weekend. Seeding progress is furthest advanced in the south and west regions of the Prairies, and furthest behind in the eastern third of the region. Overall planting progress is placed at 32% complete, which is behind last year and the 10-year average.

Related content: Fieldwork Progresses Slower-Than-Usual on Canadian Prairies

The forecast calls for improving conditions this week in the Prairie region with mostly warm, dry weather in the forecast. Chances of showers increase by next week, but only scattered showers are expected for the next five days.

The agronomic benefits of early seeding have been well documented by academics, but we also know that final yield outcome is dependent on so many other variables thereafter... most notably moisture or lack of and July temperatures. A crop seeded in early May in dry or cold soil can end up inferior yielding than a crop planted late May in warm/moist soil. 2013 was a prime example.

However, using historical date, Manitoba Ag Services Corporation (MASC) has created the following chart to demonstrate how yields can be impacted with later seeding in Manitoba. The figure below illustrates the average relative yield (%) reported to MASC during each sowing week for the selected crops grown in Manitoba over a 20-year period. The vertical line represents the 4th week of May. By the 4th week of May... sunflower, canola, soybean and edible beans have not lost a lot of yield potential, while spring seeded cereals, peas and corn yields have dropped to 85% of normal yield potential.



With modern farm equipment, growers can cover a lot of ground in a hurry... weather permitting. But this year, the weather admittedly is not cooperating.

In a good year, seeding across much of the Prairies should be in the area of half done by the May long weekend. But going into the weekend, seeding progress in most regions... predominantly the eastern half of the Prairies was at 10 per cent done or less given damp, rainy weather and soils too cold for good germination.

It's still enough for crops such as wheat, oats, barley or canola, which will germinate in soils in the low single digits, but not with the nice, even flush of green a farmer gets when temperatures are in the high teens. Specialty crops such as corn and soybeans need at least 10 degrees C to get off to a good start.

In its weekly advisory May 14, the Canola Council of Canada told farmers to stop waiting for warmth. "It's mid-May, so put away the soil thermometer. When you get the chance to seed, then seed," it said.

It's definitely been a cold, wet and sluggish start to the growing season, but there's still time to turn things around. Warmer temps are coming this week.

Agriculture Canada has revised most its new-crop Canadian grain and oilseed ending stocks estimates lower from last month, including canola which saw a significant cut. The latest supply/demand update from Ag Canada incorporates Statistics Canada's April planting intentions report and a recent March 31 stocks report.

Ag Canada forecast total grain and oilseed production in 2014 at 74.760 MMT, which compares with the April estimate of 75.555 MMT... and falls back to something more normal following the massive and all-time record large 90.083 MMT grown in 2013.

For canola, Ag Canada is now projecting 2014-15 ending stocks at 1.95 MMT, way down from the April estimate of 3.3 MMT and also below the revised old-crop ending stocks estimate of 3.25 MMT (down from 3.3 MMT last month). Much of the reduction can be attributed to a smaller 2014 planted area, which was projected by StatCan at 19.8 million acres, down slightly from a year ago. Ag Canada had previously been forecasting an increase in planted area to 21.6 million acres.

With fewer seeded acres, Ag Canada is estimating 2014 canola production at 14.75 MMT, down from 16 MMT in April and below the 2013 crop of 17.96 MMT. Exports and total domestic use were left mostly unchanged from April at 8.5 MMT and 7.67 MMT, resulting in the sharp decline in the ending stocks estimate.

New-crop all wheat ending stocks came in at 9.4 MMT in today's update, down 300,000 MMT from the April estimate and below the 2013-14 ending stocks projection of 11.4 MMT (down 400,000 MT from last month).

Although Ag Canada raised its all wheat planted area estimate to come into line with the StatCan estimate...and production increased to 29.61 MMT from 29.3 MMT... the lower carryin from 2013-14 and a small boost in exports and domestic use was enough to result in a slightly lighter 2014-
15 ending stocks estimate.