As Planters Start to Roll, It’s About Boosting Our Production Efficiency

Phil corn plant 510    On the farm changes are only constant.  How many times have you heard that from me?  I’ve made so many changes this spring on my for my head is spinning.   I go to new for me corn planter, a new sprayer and some new guidance systems on the way which are bigger and better and helps make farming easier.   Of course all that stuff doesn’t matter if mother nature doesn’t cooperate.  I suppose I’m just trying to sneak through those window she gives us a little bit easier.

I am at the starting gate of spring planting in southwestern Ontario.  There is rain and cold weather moving in tonight, which has effectively put the brakes on some corn planting as of today.  The forecast had been for warm and sunny weather, I would be planting corn as fast as I could.  Hopefully, I’ll get all the bugs worked out of my new for me corn planter quickly.  However, you know how it works.  When I get to the last 20 acres of planting corn, it is likely all know how everything works.

It is a long road until those last cornstalks go to my combine probably in November.  There will be many challenges.  So I found it particularly interesting this morning when statistics Canada released its estimates on the principal crops which will be grown here the spring.  According to statistics Canada, Ontario will be planting 2.07 million acres of corn and 2.8 million acres  of soybeans.  They also mentioned wheat remaining after winter at 895,000 acres.  In Quebec, they are expecting 958,800  acres of corn and 778,400 acres of soybeans.

When I first heard the numbers when a reporter from the London Free Press contacted me via twitter.  She wanted a few comments and I was somewhat taken aback by the Ontario corn number.  Some colleagues have actually talked about Ontario corn coming in at 1.9 million acres pushing us possibly back into import pricing in 2015.  I am not of that club thinking that Ontario corn acres will be almost the same as 2013.  In many ways, the Statistics Canada numbers me or my thinking and Ontario court pricing will remain the cheapest east of the western US corn belt.

The 2.8 million acres of soybeans in Ontario would be a record.  In fact, you could make an argument that the wheat acreage  is grossly overstated based on the amount of winter kill that we are seeing across Ontario.   I’ve got some pretty tough looking wheat, but I have decided to keep it.  Others however are not making a choice and many people are taking out vast amounts of their wheat acreage.  This potentially could push a record soybean acreage projection even farther, as most of those acres in my opinion would go to soybeans.

Of course it’s not necessarily about soybeans only in Ontario.  There is also record acreages set for Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.  Last year statistics Canada measured Saskatchewan soybean acreage for the 1st time pegging it at 170,000 acres.  This year statistics Canada is projecting 300,000 acres, so the soybean revolution continues in Western Canada.

Soybean dreaming has certainly been contagious.  In Western Canada canola acreage projections were actually decreased by Statistics Canada.  They are saying 19.936 million acres of canola, even less than last year.   It would seem the canola although still very important to Western Canada is seeing its oilseed cousin soybeans gaining a little cachet.

Of course it is all a theory now.  Last year I did not know monsoon 2013 would come along which I would fight almost all summer.  We all know what too much dry it’s like, those times when you can’t even buy a rain.  It surely looks like we’ll be soybeans everywhere this fall, but what catastrophe awaits us, how many Chinese cancellations will there be and what does Mr. Putin really want with Ukraine?  There are just so many variables ahead, some of which could foster violent price action.

So our agricultural world is changing.  Key though with all of these newer management technologies is to boost production efficiency.  So that means a faster path to 300 bushel corn and an escape from the 40 bushel per acre soybean yield trap. The latter is my big problem the former is a place that I think I’m getting to.  It is a must in 2014 that we need to booster production efficiency. The alternative is simply muddy water.   Having all these new technology toys on the farm will remain toys if there is no economic payoff.

So the road ahead is more of the same and we’ll see what happens this year.  Typically some other farming region of the world needs to fail for another area to thrive.  That is  as old as farming itself.  The question is, where’s it going to be this year.  I’ve been there before, many times.  I just hope it’s not my turn this year.