Always a popular question at this time of year. Always a difficult question to answer at this time of year. The question of what to plant is one which I discuss with clients, friends, neighbors, and media. My answer is consistently to set your seeding plans based on a rotation you are comfortable with. Grow what gives you ability to best manage yield and quality risk. Grow what you think is best for your land that affords sustainable maximum productivity. Consider your seeding and harvest capacity and timing of both operations. Don’t forget to factor in your lands history. In Western Canada these decisions are never easy because we have so many options. We have 9 field crops at over 1 million acres last year, 8 of those over 3 million! There are 10 or more niche crops which can be produced here as well. Each of our crops has unique quantity, quality, and rotational limitations and potential. Every farm has unique management challenges and opportunities. Does than answer or avoid the question?
My “ideal” rotation is the same every year. I prefer efficiency of growing fewer crops, 3-5 year rotation is plenty, and length of rotation dependent on crops you choose. I believe as a market hedge you should have at least one cereal, pulse, and oilseed. I believe as a weather hedge you should have a mix of crops that thrive in dry conditions, and crops that thrive in wet conditions. I am very reluctant to commit more than 25% of acres to a “niche market” crop which I consider to be any crop with less than 1 million acres. I typically do not recommend you try to chase a market by seeding or not seeding a crop. I consider the crop marketing cycle to be a minimum of 18 months long, which will include the seeded acre influence of 3 crop years. Marketing whichever crops you seed then, can capitalize on previous crop, current crop, and/or next year’s crop fundamentals. My goal is always to help you try to get the most out of whatever crops you seed, not to use markets to determine which crops to seed.