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Local farmers leaning toward lentils and early optimism

Farmers in southeast Saskatchewan aren’t going to swing too far away from their producer counterparts across Canada this spring according to information received from the local fields.

Farmers in southeast Saskatchewan aren’t going to swing too far away from their producer counterparts across Canada this spring according to information received from the local fields. 

Statistics Canada reported last week that Canadian farmers intend to plant more barley and corn for grain in 2016 and will devote less acreage to wheat, canola, soybeans and oats. 

Sherri Roberts, a crop specialist for the provincial Ministry of Agriculture, said from her Weyburn office on April 22, that local producers are leaning more heavily toward lentils and field peas, but, as Stats Canada predicted, they’re shying away from soybeans a little bit but will be bumping up their forage corn production, as predicted. 

“It’s all market driven at this stage,” said Roberts, who noted that local farmers are in the field, some of them doing some seeding while others are rock picking and spraying granular weed controls. She said that had been going on for a couple of weeks already and she had seen farmers in the field, doing some seeding in the Lang, Oxbow, Fillmore and Minton regions. 

Unlike their Canadian counterparts though, southeast Saskatchewan farmers may not be steering away from canola, perhaps anticipating a rebound in prices between now and late August. 

“Canola supplies could go down more quickly, more dramatically, which will jump prices,” said Roberts. 

As far as she can determine, lentils will rule the day, not only on southern Saskatchewan farms, but also around the globe. 

“I hear lentil acreage is going up by 10 million acres this year and up as much as 75 per cent in the United States,” she said. 

Canary seed, which is now opening up for human consumption is also “getting easier to work with,” said Roberts, noting that traditionally canary seed can leave producers with irritating skin conditions when they work with it over a period of time in large volumes. But recent canary seed breeds have removed that factor and, she said, it’s an excellent crop to put into a rotation. So it could gain approval, at least on the lower side of the cropping acreages put into, what some describe as, non-traditional crops. Another crop that comes under that banner are sunflowers. Roberts said she is predicting some significant acreage in that crop this year with farmers in the Weyburn and Arcola areas especially telling her that’s one direction they are heading with some good varieties now available to try, and a plentiful supply of seed. 

And seed supply is a big issue. In fact, she said, those intending to plant lentils this year, but don’t have their seed on hand already, may be out of luck, thanks to the huge demand. 

Pre-emergent weed control materials and supplies for lentils will also be in high demand and maybe unavailable by this time.

Flax crops could be a question mark this spring. There aren’t any new contracts for hemp this year, which could affect decision-making in that area since it is a by-product. 

“I’m not hearing any grumbling out there. We had one good rain. It could be a good growing season again. Forage could be good even though there hasn’t been that much rain lately and, of course, nothing much in terms of runoff.”

Roberts said the ideal situation now would be for “a lot of sunshine and heat for right now, followed by a bit of rain,” she said with a chuckle. 

If that happens, there probably won’t be any grumblers at all … as long as the commodity prices stay firm or creep up a bit. 

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