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Farmers plant a record amount of wheat, prompted by surging prices

A surge in prices fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the need for crops resilient to Western Canada’s recent bone-dry conditions prompted farmers to plant more acres of wheat than they have in almost a decade.

Some growers, however, are getting nervous as commodity prices fall from their highs. Agricultural experts, though, point out that markets are still stronger than in the past several years, and it is shaping up to be a good crop year.

Jason Lenz, who grows wheat, canola and barley at his farm near Red Deer, Alta., said the market surge brought on by the war in Europe was one factor in an 8.7-per-cent increase in acres planted with wheat, as reported by Statistics Canada on Tuesday.

“We saw record-high wheat prices – all commodity prices really – earlier this spring with regard to opportunities for the new crop for this year, so I think farmers definitely took note of that,” Mr. Lenz said.

In addition, the past few years of heat and dry conditions in the West prompted many farmers to seek crops that could withstand an increasingly harsh climate.

“Wheat is a crop that can handle and adapt and survive drier conditions than most other crops, so I think farmers looked at that as a reason to put in more wheat,” said Mr. Lenz, who also serves as vice-chairman of the Alberta Wheat Commission.

Western growers planted 25.4 million acres (10.3 million hectares) of wheat, the most since 2013, according to Statscan. The gains were led by spring wheat, up 10.5 per cent, and durum, up 8.6 per cent. The number of wheat acres rose in all three major producing provinces.

Some of the increase came at the expense of canola. Farmers planted 21.4 million acres (8.7 million hectares) of that crop, down 4.7 per cent from the previous year.

David Reid, who grows wheat near Cremona, Alta., north of Calgary, said he did not adjust his operations much as a result of the recent surging markets. “You look at projected prices for the fall, and input costs and everything, and then adjust our acreage one way or another depending on what we think will provide the best returns overall,” he said.

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