On schedule with one-third of the crop seeded, still about a week away, and scrambling to get some of last year’s crop harvested while working to get the 2017 crop in the ground — these are the range of reports from western Canadian farmers as of early May as they look at the cropping season ahead.
It is certainly a mixed bag of conditions across Western Canada. Several reports from producers contacted for the May Farmer Panel describe the season pretty-well-on-schedule to slightly delayed across the country. Moisture is bordering on excessive in some parts of the prairies but if rain holds off farmers should be okay.
In southern Alberta seeding systems are running in the fields, while as you go further north up to 18 inches of heavy, wet snow on Easter weekend, followed by foot of snow about a week later is making it a greater challenge, especially for producers who still have varying amounts of last year’s crop to get off the field.
As one farmer north of Highway 16 (The Yellowhead) put if, if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, everything will get done — but only time will tell.
Here is how farmers across Western Canada describe their seeding season conditions as of May 1.
Lorne Floyd says conditions were cool and there was plenty of moisture in the Arborg area of Manitoba, about 120 km north of Winnipeg.
Floyd, who grows oats, soybeans and canola says seeding equipment was ready but he along with others hadn’t turned any wheels yet as they wait for conditions to warm up.
“I’d say we’re about on schedule with other years,” says Floyd. “We usually don’t start seeding for another week or 10 days, so I think things are looking pretty good. We’re not too wet or too dry, but temperatures are below normal.” They need a bit of heat in area.
Floyd plans to plant grain corn for the first time this year. He’ll use his soybean planter to get the row-crop in the ground “and I’ll wait to see what kind of crop we get before I think about a header for the combine.”
Conditions were about “normal or average” for Rick Procyk in the Fillmore area south of Regina. Seeding equipment was ready and with a few dry days he will be ready to get in the field.
They had a delayed harvest in his area last fall, but got everything combined by Nov. 10. While it was wet last fall, as of early May he figured “a little rain wouldn’t hurt.”
Along with wheat, canola, lentils and soybeans he plans to seed some grain corn this spring. He won’t be growing any flax, but will put in about 200 acres of corn.
“We thought we would dabble with a bit of corn to see how it does,” says Procyk who farms along with his son Chris. “Hopefully in the next few days we will start banding some fertilizer for the corn.”
Procyk has been growing soybeans for the past five years and it appears “to have a very good fit” in his area and is interested in trying new varieties.
Farmers need some warmer and drier weather in the Radisson, Sask., area, northeast of Saskatoon, says Corey Loessin.
With three snowstorms in the past week, he says conditions are a bit slow as they have plenty of moisture and “it has just been very cold.” He usually starts seeding between May 1 and 5 and if the forecast holds for some decent spring weather, he expects seeding to be pretty well on schedule.
Loessin seeds about 20 per cent of the farm in pulse crops, about 30 per cent in canola and the rest in spring wheat and malt barley. He’ll plans to grow some faba beans this year after a couple of years’ absence from his rotation. He will cut back on lentils. Faba beans have grown well in the past, and he is anxious to try a smaller-seed variety that should flow easier through the air seeding system.
He is maintaining his cereal acres although fusarium head-blight is an increasing concern. While some producers are considering tillage to reduce the prevalence of the disease, he doesn’t see that as an option for his farm. He continues to select the best varieties and watch wheat and barley crop rotations.
“All in all, we are sitting in pretty good shape here,” he says. “We were fortunate to get a crop harvested last fall. There are couple farms in the area that still have a few acres out. Now we just need it to warm up.”
North Battleford, Sask.
Willis Brossaer says he usually doesn’t start seeding until about May 10, so figures the season is on track for his farm near North Battleford.
It is a bit wetter than normal, so he will look to do some harrowing of fields as soon as conditions dry enough. “The higher ground is drying out pretty good,” he says. “But we will have to wait before we can get on some of the lower spots.”
He plans to be seeding barley, wheat canola, and peas this year and still hadn’t made a decision on lentils. He too was fortunate to get his entire crop combined last fall. There are some area farmers with badly lodged barley to combine.
Rod Lanier wasn’t gloating, but he was pleased to have about one-third of the crop on his Lethbridge-area farm seeded by April 30. With about 1,200 acres completed he seeded his durum wheat on hemp stubble and peas on durum stubble.
He hoped to get flax seeded later the first week of May and as one of long time hemp growers, it will be seeded last.
“Hemp is still a big part of our program here,” says Lanier, whose rotation includes pulse crops, durum, hemp and flax. “Markets are still pretty good although with the activity in Korea that creates a bit of uncertainty,” says. He is working with a couple different groups to get the market for hemp straw (fibre) off the ground.
Jason Lentz counts himself lucky that he only has about 130 acres of ankle-high CPS wheat left in the field on his west-central Alberta farm near Bentley after the 2016 harvest. Others in the area have considerably more crop to deal with this spring before they start seeding.
Lentz isn’t sure what he’ll do with the CPS wheat, but chances are he’ll just have to work it down.
“It has been a bit of slow spring, but conditions are starting to dry out,” says Lentz who grows canola, malt barley and hard red spring and CPS wheat. “We usually don’t start seeding until May 5 to 8 so if the forecast for good weather holds we should be pretty close to that.”
They started some spring field work the last week of April, but had to pick and chose where they could work due to moisture. He says if seeding is delayed he may have to consider some earlier maturing varieties, seed more peas or more barley.
Smoky Lake, Alta.
If it stops snowing and warms up a bit, Robert Semeniuk hopes he can start juggling the challenge of getting 900 acres of last year’s crop off the field, while at the same time start seeding canola and cereals for 2017.
Semeniuk, who farms in the Smoky Lake area, northeast of Edmonton is among farmers in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan who collectively have about two million acres of last year’s crop still in the field.
Semeniuk has about 800 acres of canola and about 100 acres of oats still in the field.
“I think the oats we’ll just have to work in and the canola will have to be combined some how,” he says. “We’ll send samples away to see if it has any value, and if not about the only option I have is compost it. If there was only 40 acres worth you might be able to dump it in a fenceline, but we’ve got way too much. We’ll compost it and put it back on the land.”
Semeniuk, who still has a sense of humour, says he has put in plenty of sleepless nights trying to figure how to schedule everything. “It was looking in early April that we might have a chance to get at the combining, then we had a foot and a half of really heavy, wet snow on Easter weekend,” he says. “And last week we had another foot of snow. So we are saturated here. We have to wait until things dry out a bit before we can start.”
The part of the farm with last year’s canola was the area he had planned to seed first. “We’ve had to change the schedule around completely,” he says. “It is going to push the envelope but I believe we can make it work. I’ve got some extra help hired so when we can get on the land we’ll be harvesting in some areas and seeding in others. We will make it work.
“First things have to dry out a bit. I don’t think we will be turning a wheel before May 15.”