Manitoba sunflower acreage to plummet

With many producers planning on seeding large amounts of canola and wheat this spring amid historically high prices, the crop that appears to be taking the largest hit in Manitoba because of this is sunflowers.

In the 2011 planted area intention report from Statistics Canada released Tuesday, the government agency said only 65,000 acres are likely to be planted to sunflowers in Manitoba this year, a 51 per cent drop from the 135,000 in 2010.

Earl Schnellert of Agri-Tel Marketing at Beausejour, Man. said that although a lot of analysts have questioned some of the numbers in the report, he believes the sunflower acreage total is on the mark.

“The number is accurate. We’ve had guys who have grown them all their lives, who are not growing them this year,” he said.

The primary reason for acreage being more than cut in half is the threat of disease, Schenllert said.

“Anything east of Portage la Prairie has been hit by head rot and been really bad for the last couple of years,” he said. “Anyone who I’ve talked to who was a sunflower grower is not growing sunflowers this year.”

Another factor behind the reduction in acres is the strong prices of other crops.

“Sunflower prices are good, but the strong prices of other oilseeds and cereals are not persuading guys to plant sunflowers,” Schnellert said. “They can be more sure about wheat and beans, and other crops like that.”

With nearly all of Manitoba’s major waterways overflowing their banks, a late seeding season is on the horizon in the province.

Asked if producers would plant sunflowers if it was too late to plant other conventional crops, Schnellert said, “In Manitoba that doesn’t really hold true like it does in South Dakota and North Dakota. Here guys often go to flax in the late season.”

Current elevator deliveries for old-crop oil sunflowers are bringing as much as 33 cents per pound, while confectionary seeds are bringing as much as 26 cents per pound, according to Prairie Ag Hotwire. New-crop prices for oil seeds are up to 30 cents a pound and confectionary, up to 33 cents a pound.

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