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Panel optimistic about 2013

While all is looking good for the coming growing season, farmers say they are familiar with the adage “no one ever lost a crop in January”

It may be too wet, or too dry in some regions this winter, but farmers contacted for the early January 2013 Farmer Panel are optimistic about the year ahead.

New equipment in the field, changes in rotation, more wheat in rotation and farming more acres, are among the changes farmers have planned for the coming year, say panel members.

Canola is still important, but wheat appears to be making a comeback for a few reasons. Wheat has been able to handle a wide range of growing conditions, improved varieties are being developed and prices appear to be strong for the coming year. The market is telling farmers to grow more wheat this year, however — and there is always a however — seed supply might be tight. First of all demand is high, and on top of that, high levels of fusuarium head blight in 2012 may affect the amount of good quality seed available. The message here is to line up seed supplies early.

So here are what members of the January Farmer Panel had to say about their plans for 2013:

Dallas Leduc Glentworth, Sask.

While it is wet in some parts of Saskatchewan, that is not the case in the southwest corner, where Dallas Leduc hopes there will be enough moisture to get crops growing come May.

Leduc will be adding about 400 seeded acres to his 7,000-acre grain and oilseed operation near Glentworth, southeast of Swift Current.

“We went into the fall incredibly dry,” he says. “There seems to be this area 10 miles by 17 miles, some people call the Chinook belt which seems to be drier than the rest of the country. You don’t have to go many miles in any direction to see more snow than we have right now. And we have no chemfallow heading into 2013, so everything will be seeded on stubble. We will need some spring rains.

“While I am a bit worried about the growing conditions, I am optimistic about prices. I think they will hold in there quite well. Durum will probably stay where it is at, I think wheat will rally a bit early in the New Year, mustard will be about 40 cents and canola will hang in there around $13, so prices are looking good. We just need the moisture.”

Leduc who grows canola, yellow mustard, peas, wheat and durum, says he plans to keep all crops in rotation for 2013, and may increase the yellow mustard aces, and might also bring chickpeas back into the rotation. “That may sound stupid because we swore we’d never grow them again,” he says. “But people are making a few dollars on them, so we may grow them again next year.”

Dustin Williams Souris, Man.

Dustin Williams will be making several changes in crops, rotation and production practices in 2013. “This will be a year of changes for us,” says Williams, who along with his wife Laura, and young family crop about 4,200 acres near Souris, in southwest Manitoba.

They are renting more land for 2013, including some pasture being converted to annual cropping. The farmer he is renting from applied a burn-down herbicide to kill the forage stand in August.

“And on our part, we bought Smart-Till tillage tool, to work the land,” says Williams. “We had been looking for the right tool for sometime. What we like about the Smart-Till is that it can be adjusted to produce the degree of soil disturbance we want. The field was sprayed in August and we used the Smart-Till in October to break up the sod on this pasture and it has done an excellent job of working the field without plowing and discing. We didn’t buy it just for this working this pastureland. It can be adjusted and used more as a low disturbance aeration tool on other cropland to help break up any compaction layer in the top eight inches of soil.”

The Smart-Till has a tool bar equipped with a series of eight-inch knives or blades that can be adjusted from a zero to 10° angle depending on the desired degree of soil disturbance. The system also has an optional harrow that can also be adjusted for degree of soil disturbance.

Along with bringing more land into their farming operation, Williams is increasing soybean acres and introducing corn in rotation in 2013. He was impressed with the performance of a half section of soybeans last year so plans to grow about 1,200 acres this year. And he’ll seed about 100 acres of grain corn this coming spring.

“For our operation the soybeans grow well, and actually pencil out to be more profitable than canola,” he says. “I think both soybeans and corn are better able to handle those really hot mid-summer temperatures.” He plans to hire a custom operator to seed the corn, and will be looking for a used corn header for harvest.

Williams also plans to keep canola in rotation. He will be growing Nexera specialty canola again this year. Although he is not able to get the top canola yields in his area, Williams says the premium price paid for Nexera is “like having more canola acres.”

He also plans to seed more spring wheat this coming year, to take advantage of new pricing options.

“We’re hoping for a good year ahead,” he says. “We know prices are good now, but the market can soften quickly, so we base our planning on more conservative figures, rather than the top of the market.”

Nolan Robertson Fairview, Alta.

Nolan Robertson figures he will be like many farmers across Western Canada, seeding more wheat in 2013. The Alberta Peace River region farmer says the past five years wheat has been one of if not the top returning crop on his farm.

“I think a lot of guys will be seeding more wheat this year,” he says. “I know if we had been a seed grower we could have sold a lot of wheat seed this winter. Two things are happening — a lot of people have really been pushing canola rotations and now want to get away from those canola on canola rotations, and secondly wheat is performing well on a wide range of growing conditions and prices are good.”

Robertson says they will still keep a good portion of their 6,800 acre farm in canola, will back off on pea acres, and increase wheat acres. And, he’s learned, too, that CPS wheat is more profitable than hard red spring wheat. “If there is one thing we can grow in the Peace Region it is wheat and I’ve found that bushels pay more than the price premium,” he says. “We’ve found the CPS not only has a better return over hard red spring, but the last three years, CPS wheat has had the highest return of any crop on the farm. We’re seeing some very good marketing opportunities right now, which is exciting.”

The Peace River Region was very dry during much of the growing season last year. Robertson said there was a good rain in late fall, and now there is about two feet of snow on the ground in the Fairview area. He is optimistic about good moisture to get the crop started next spring. He bought a new John Deere high clearance sprayer this past fall to replace an older, smaller high clearance sprayer, and for the first time Robertson has been able to hire a full time person to work on the farm.

“We will be farming a few more acres in 2013, although, as in many areas, the price of land is increasing,” he says. “Five or six years ago I would have said the sky is the limit as far as increasing acres was concerned. But in the last few years we are seeing younger people return to the farm as well as older farmers decide to stay in the business longer. There is optimism in agriculture. It might make it more difficult if a person wants to expand, but overall it is good for all farmers. The industry is stronger, people want to stay on the farm and it helps keep our communities going.” †

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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