With snow still covering fields, it’s difficult to fathom that most farmers are already thinking about what they need to fill their fields when the spring thaw occurs.
However, that’s exactly what is taking place in the minds of many and those thoughts seem to be leaning toward far fewer canola acres being seeded this year.
Harry Brook, crop information specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, believes the shifting market on canola will have at least some affect on decisions this spring.
“You look right now, there’s some bad news in canola. The last six weeks has seen prices steadily dropping, with a cash price hovering just below the magic number of $10 per bushel,” Brook stated.
“Now, all of a sudden, seeing prices drop with expensive seed and the cost to grow that crop not getting any cheaper, canola is no longer the big profitable crop anymore.”
In fact, some producers have indicated they are reviewing more than just their seeding options, but also what their plans are for fertilizer and spraying programs.
Brook added there are many farmers — especially in central areas of the province — wondering about replacing with barley instead of planting canola, which may well have some unintended benefits.
“In not planting canola this year, you wind up with a crop rotation of canola once in every three years instead of one in every two years,” he said.
“That’s bound to have some positive effects on the fields.”
Another factor that is influencing the canola market is that competing oilseeds — palm oil and soybeans — currently have a significant over-supply.
“The U.S. is looking at a record carryover of soybeans this year and we don’t live in isolation, so the market fundamentals and political decisions — such as the trade tensions and barriers with China and India — are having a greater influence on canola in Canada,” Brook stated.
“So, all of that has producers looking very carefully at what they are putting into the ground and how to manage the growth of those crops.”
As for when seeding will begin, Brook anticipates farmers will be heading into fields toward the end of April.
“That last week of April is about the earliest I can see it in the central region. Even if there is an early thaw, there won’t be enough heat for the soil to be warm enough for germination,” he said.