De­spite mar­ket and mould, farm­ers ex­pected to keep sched­ule

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - NEWS - LOUIS PIN [email protected]­ — Sar­nia Ob­server

South­west­ern On­tario farm­ers have a big de­ci­sion to make fol­low­ing a volatile 2018 that saw corn emerge as an un­ex­pected bumper crop, soy­bean mar­kets take a hit due to the still-run­ning trade war be­tween the U.S. and China, and a “cat­a­strophic” out­break of mould in corn due to a wet har­vest­ing sea­son.

As plant­ing sea­son nears, farm­ers have a tough choice: stick with the usual corn and soy­bean cy­cle, or lean into one of the two crops. Both op­tions seem unap­peal­ing. “The car­ry­out on soy­beans world­wide, but es­pe­cially in the U.S., is huge. It’s a record by leaps and bounds,” said Frank Backx, a grain mer­chant based in For­est. “There’s no short­age, and part of that is at­trib­ut­able to the trade is­sue, where China is not buy­ing U.S. beans.”

In con­text, the soy­bean stocks-to-usage ra­tio in 2014 was a tenth its cur­rent rate. As a re­sult, soy­bean prices based out of the Chicago Board of Trade — through which Cana­dian soy­beans are priced — still have the crop value listed 15 to 20 per cent below its reg­u­lar price due to tar­iffs im­posed by China on U.S. im­ports, off­set­ting any added value for Cana­di­ans com­pet­ing in a high­de­mand Chi­nese mar­ket.

The value of soy­beans could al­ways re­vert back to nor­mal by the time Cana­dian farm­ers go to mar­ket with their soy­beans, but a cor­rec­tion is hardly a sure – or even likely – thing.

“It’s sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected us,” Dave Park, a grain farmer in Lambton County, said. “In the spring, farm­ers will have the op­tion to grow corn or soy­beans. And farm­ers are a lit­tle gun-shy on corn due the qual­ity con­cerns they had last year with it.”

The vom­i­toxin is­sue was ar­guably more detri­men­tal to On­tario agri­cul­ture than the U.S.-China trade war. A cold, wet fall forced many farm­ers to wait be­fore har­vest­ing their corn, which trig­gered a wide­spread out­break of DON — which causes mould — and con­cerns farm­ers could lose mil­lions of dol­lars fol­low­ing an oth­er­wise suc­cess­ful sea­son.

The prov­ince even­tu­ally pro­vided re­lief in the form of test­ing sub­si­dies, but those did not quite off­set pro­jected losses.

“This DON is­sue was a one-off, or at least we sure hope it is,” Backx said. “Farm­ers are go­ing to re­mem­ber this corn is­sue for many years.”

Farm­ers are likely bet­ter off with their usual crop cy­cle of wheat, soy­beans, and corn, he added. Ro­tat­ing all three crops has been shown to pre­vent dis­ease in the long term and to im­prove an­nual yields, and those who shift too far one way or the other could paint them­selves into a cor­ner.

“We stick to a pretty reg­u­lar crop ro­ta­tion,” Dave McEachren, a cash crop farmer near Glen­coe, added. “(For) the soil health ben­e­fits and the risk man­age­ment ben­e­fits. … I have’t seen any swing as far as acreage in­ten­tions go.”

Win­ter wheat crops usu­ally have a big­ger im­pact on soy­bean and corn plant­ing, McEachren said. If that farm­land doesn’t pro­duce as ex­pected it frees up ad­di­tional farm­land for ei­ther soy­beans, corn, or both.

This year, he, Park, and other farm­ers are wor­ried that ex­act sce­nario will play out due to a late plant­ing sea­son and a mild win­ter.

“I would say we’re slightly below av­er­age,” McEachren said, about plant­ing win­ter wheat. “The con­cern is with how wet those crops have been, whether they re­ally got well-rooted and es­tab­lished for the win­ter. “Those acres could eas­ily go to ei­ther (corn or soy­beans),” he added. “The choice is pretty open there.”

“It’s cer­tainly go­ing to put our man­age­ment skills to the test,” Park said. “Hope­fully brighter days are on the hori­zon.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.