Soybeans cut swath through Western Canada wheat belt

Fri Mar 27, 2015 11:42am EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, March 27 (Reuters) - Soybeans, once a novelty in Western Canadian fields, are poised to reach record-large acreage again this year, and some of the world's biggest seed companies are betting they have further room to grow in a country known for wheat and canola.

Farmers on the eastern side of the Prairies are turning to soybeans for high returns and as shorter-season varieties make them viable in Western Canada and across northern U.S. states.

Monsanto Co expects Canadian farmers to sow 5.8 million acres this year, up from 5.6 million in 2014, with Ontario the biggest grower, said Cornie Thiessen, who leads the agricultural products company's Canadian trait and licensing business.

Growth lies in Western Canada, and Monsanto expects farmers there to nearly double acreage to 3 million within five years.

"We actually expect that (expansion) to continue for quite a few years," Thiessen said.

U.S. farmers are also expected to expand 2015 soybean plantings.

Canada's soybean output is only 1/18th the size of U.S. production, limiting its effect on global trade. Canada exported 2.4 million tonnes of soybeans in 2013-14, about 44 percent of that year's crop. China, the biggest importer, bought 895,000 tonnes.

Monsanto boosted its Canadian soybean seed investment in the past two years, pushing it to a similar level as canola. Its Roundup-Ready soybeans are the dominant brand in Canada, competing with DuPont Pioneer and Syngenta AG.   Continued...