Soybeans are making further inroads into Saskatchewan, as promises of good returns have more producers looking into a crop that has traditionally not been grown in the province.
Actual acreage data is scarce, given the relative newness of planting soybeans in Saskatchewan, but Dale Risula, a special crops specialist with Saskatchewan's agriculture ministry in Regina, estimated about 70,000 acres were planted to the crop in the province in 2012.
"The interest in soybeans seems very strong," he said, adding that area could rise to 90,000 acres.
However, most Saskatchewan growers interested in the crop likely haven't planted soybeans before, which had Risula recommending they start with a small area.
"A lot of work needs to be done in the area of variety identification and development before (soybeans) become one of the more major crops grown here consistently," said Risula adding that "it's a big risk to jump into soybeans in a big way."
As to why Saskatchewan farmers are showing more interest in growing soybeans, Risula said the cost of production works in the crop's favour compared to canola, as soybeans do not require expensive nitrogen inputs. Soybeans are also easier to harvest than other pulse options, such as peas or lentils.
Seed supplies will likely need to be brought in from other jurisdictions, such as Manitoba and North Dakota, to meet the demand, said Risula. Those varieties may not have been tested in Saskatchewan, which creates some uncertainty as far as production is concerned.
Farmers in neighbouring Manitoba have been growing soybeans for over a decade, with acreage rising from 50,000 in 2001 (the first year of official survey results) to 800,000 in 2012, according to Statistics Canada data.
-- Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.