Organic seeding issues could cause trouble down the line

Young Maize Corn Crops Leaves in Field Many producers in Ontario and Quebec are growing regular season corn varieties due to seed supply shortages, hoping to have enough time to harvest it this fall. Photo: Thinkstock

By Jade Markus
OrganicBiz staff

As seeding starts—or in some cases, stalls—Canada’s organic market is holding seasonally steady. But current conditions could play a role further into the growing season.

Producers are watching crop and market conditions for cues on which crops to grow, which means a bounce in oilseed and oat production is expected this year, while cereals taper off.

In Saskatchewan, seeding is underway in some areas, while absent in others.

“[In the] northeast, not much has started yet. Most organic guys are trying to get in the field and do some spring work, and I think there’s very few acres that have been seeded,” said Jayson Plamondon of Melfort, Saskatchewan-based Rein Agri Food Group Corp.

He added that some producers are only a couple days away from seeding, while others are two weeks out.

Producers farming on large areas of organic land in the northern part of the province have yet to get last year’s crop off, said Scott Shiels of Grain Millers, Inc. in Yorkton, Saskatchewan.

“And if they don’t get that off, pretty soon they’re going to have problems—it’s going to shrink acres and there’s a lot of organic land up there,” Shiels said.

Normally, cropping would have started, planting would have started, around the first of May; it didn’t start until last week. – Tom Manley

But in southern parts of the province, seeding is progressing more smoothly.

“Conditions are good, where they’ve been seeding,” Shiels said, adding that about ten per cent of Saskatchewan’s organic crops had been seeded (as of Tuesday, May 23).

To the east, seeding delays are also causing issues in Ontario and Quebec.

“Normally, cropping would have started, planting would have started, around the first of May; it didn’t start until last week,” said Tom Manley of Homestead Organics in Morrisburg, Ontario.

Though those provinces are running about two to three weeks late, they’ve also seen favourable conditions as-of-late, which means a lot of planting has since been completed.

That delayed seeding has had an impact on what producers chose to grow this year—in some cases it became too late to plant cereals, Manley said.

Ontario and Quebec will likely see increased soybean acres, as people switch out of cereals, Manley said.

Those provinces may also be faced with corn crop issues.

Many producers opted to switch to short-season variety corn seed, but then those supplies ran out, Manley said.

“Therefore they’re back at planting their regular season varieties. We’re concerned, will it make the fall harvest?”

In the Prairies, producers are expected to favour oats and flax over cereals.

Oats are acting as a good revenue-generator for producers, Plamondon said.

Shiels added that oats are likely to be a popular crop for producers, due to later seeding and disease issues in wheat and barley.

“Even on the organic side, fusarium has started to affect them, and it affects those crops more than it affects oats,” Shiels said.

He also named flax as a crop that could see increased acres this year.

“Guys are pretty happy with the prices that have been available for that.”

Despite the issues with seeding this year, there’s been limited market movement, but that doesn’t mean current issues won’t bubble up and support prices later in the growing season.

Typically, the organic market is slow and steady in spring and into early summer.

Companies often look to cover themselves, buying up until May or June, and won’t look for product until July, Plamondon said.

“I think it’s to see what the new crop looks like,” he added.

“So typically we see slow spring, and then depending on what the crop looks like, or what stage it’s at, then you’ll see some mid-summer buying.”