The western Canadian prairie, a traditional stronghold for wheat-growers, has become a more hospitable environment for corn and soybean cultivation -- thanks in part to climate change.
DuPont Pioneer, the seed division of DuPont Co., is following the temperature north. It’s starting to build infrastructure for products that traditionally grow farther south and is teaching farmers how to grow them.
DuPont, the world’s second-biggest seed-seller after Monsanto, is “putting into place research centers up in Canada to start to develop the corn hybrids and the soybean varieties of the future,” said John Soper, the company’s vice president of crop-genetics research and development. Soper attended this morning’s Bloomberg Government breakfast in Washington with Paul Schickler, president of Dupont Pioneer.
Corn, once confined mostly to the southern reaches of Ontario, is spreading westward across the country, with farmers sowing a record 121,400 hectares (300,000 acres) of corn in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta last year, according to the Canadian government.
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Growing seasons in the prairie provinces -- which border Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana -- have lengthened about two in the past half-century, in some years reaching 120 days. The mean annual temperature is likely to climb by as much as 3 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit) in the region by 2050, Canadian researchers have projected.
Along with the research centers, DuPont is also teaching Corn 101 to Canadian farmers who have cultivated wheat, canola and other crops for generation, Soper said. “We’re having ‘crop shops.’ We’re teaching growers how to plant corn,” Soper said. Many of the farmers “have never planted it before,” he said, “so very basic things.”
Bjerga covers agriculture for Bloomberg News.