What to seed? How to seed it? Where to find your seed? Who to buy it from? These are the questions which must be answered by every farmer on a yearly basis. Price and input costs are the two largest factors in every seeding decision, but there are also other factors, no less important, which must also be considered according to Patrick Fabian, owner of Fabian Seed Farms Inc. and provincial sales manager for Thunder Seeds and Quarry Seed.
“One of the big things they have to look at is marketability (when choosing their seed). If they grow something, are they going to be able to move it? There are a lot of crops that can be grown, but require contracting or specific markets, or conditions, to be able to move the product properly. The other aspect as well is not just the movement of the products, but keeping in mind of the diseases that are spreading through the province. It is making choices more difficult, and limiting some on the crops they can grow.”
Disease, particularly, is an increasingly important element in many farmers’ seeding decisions, says Fabian. They are looking for alternatives to reduce the chance of occurrence or re-occurrence on their lands. As a result, Fabian says he is seeing an increasing demand for soybeans this year on irrigated acres and durum on dryland acres.
“We have seen a huge interest in soybeans because the input costs, and costs of production for the year, are approximately about half of what canola is to grow after the dust settles. It’s a very easy crop to grow, and it’s not susceptible to this new disease that’s running around out there called “Aphanomyces” you are seeing in peas. So it’s actually starting to replace some of those pea acres.”
Fabian also stresses new varieties of soybeans are more competitive, taking a week to 10 days less growing time than previous varieties. They also now come Round-Up ready and Banvel-tolerant. And at nearly $13 a bushel, the profit margin is comparable to other crops as well, says Fabian.
Durum is a slightly more risky proposition, says Fabian, but high quality durum can pay off with a premium price for the right producer.
“A lot of guys are looking for clean, Fusarium-free durum,” confirms Fabian. “Not every area is suitable for growing durum, and it can be quite touchy to grow. If it rains at the wrong time it will downgrade quite easily. But if they have the right conditions, the payback to the farmer can be quite significant.”
Fabian says another factor a farmer has to consider when deciding what to seed is cash-flow. With prices expected to be down a bit in 2017, it is more important than ever for operators to get their cash back by picking something they can grow more quickly and turn around fast for sale.
“There is no point in growing something if you are not going to be able to move it in a timely manner,” he states.
Other questions to consider, according to Fabian:
What is my soil type? Is my land ready? Or am I still trying to get the previous years crop off and fields prepared before seeding?
If I want to try a new kind of crop, do I need to invest in a pile of new infrastructure to make it happen, or can I use my existing equipment?
Do I have proper storage in the event that there’s aeration required? Do I have the capability of holding this stuff for a longer period of time if needed? As opposed to something I can move fairly quickly to get my money and cash-flow?
Fabian believes as long as farmers keep an eye on the bottom line, and do their research thoroughly, then 2017 should turn out to be a pretty good year for agriculture.
“I think despite the dark clouds on the outlook, I really think there are opportunities out there for producers to capitalize on and make some good money. That’s just where the farmer has to do a little bit of homework and ask some hard questions.”