Record-low summerfallow expected

CNS Canada — Changing farm practices and moving world markets over the years have seen shifts in the makeup of the crops grown in Canada — but the most noticeable change in the past three decades may be the amount of land seeded to nothing.

Heading into the 2016 growing season, Canadian farmers say they will leave only 2.2 million acres unseeded as summerfallow land.

That marks a new record low for the practice, and compares to the 1980s, when summerfallow consistently topped 20 million acres, according to Statistics Canada data.

Since the mid-1980s, when wheat area still averaged 30 million-plus acres, average wheat plantings in Canada have come down by about 10 million acres. Meanwhile, canola and pulse crops have all seen considerable growth over that time.

While diversifying out of wheat played a part in the move away from summerfallow, the bigger adjustment was in the move to zero-till practices and nitrogen fertilizer.

“That’s still 2.2 million acres too high,” said one longtime farmer on this year’s summerfallow projection.

The old practice of seeding two-thirds of your land and leaving one-third idle caused fields to lose moisture, due to the need for heavy tilling, while any increases in nitrogen from leaving the field sit for a year were seen to have paled in comparison to applying fertilizer.

Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for MarketsFarm specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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