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Posted Dec. 19th, 2013 by Ed White

It was standing room only at the recent Manitoba Agronomists Conference as booming acreage growth and farmer excitement forced professional agronomy advisers to bone-up on a crucial question: "Corn and soybeans? Is Manitoba the new Iowa?"

It was the official theme of the conference and one the eastern Prairies are pondering, especially now that Manitoba soybean area has pushed past a million acres.

Speakers from Iowa and North Dakota joined Canadian experts to discuss the challenges farmers might face as corn and soybeans move into new areas.

And some prairie experts expressed caution especially with plunging corn prices and questions about long-term soybean margins.

"I think the acres will continue to grow, but I think the rate of growth may slow down," Jon Driedger of FarmLink Marketing said in an interview. "There have been some very aggressive forecasts and maybe those will indeed pan out, but I'm not sure it'll work out."

Driedger said two years of high corn prices and good yields have encouraged many to embrace the crop, but their excitement will be tempered now that corn prices have fallen to less than $5 per bushel from more than $7. Manitoba corn acreage could actually decline next spring.

"I don't think we'll see the same amount of acres we saw this year," said Pam de Rocquigny of Manitoba Agriculture in an interview.

"There's still some grain corn left out there in the fields. This year definitely opened some guys' eyes."

Manitoba farmers were expected to seed more than 400,000 acres of corn this year, but probably planted only 340,000 acres because of fear of late spring frost.

Driedger said many prairie crops have been losing the battle for farmers' hearts because corn and soybeans offered high relative returns.

However, those strengths may wane as the impact of the Midwest drought and the lingering tightness in corn stocks disappears.

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