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Diary of a pea crop

This season was too wet, 
then dry, but it’s left a 
promising start for next year

Volunteer growth in the field on November 10, 2016.

This is the story of the pea crop on my farm near Dundurn, Sask., in the 2017 growing season.

August 21, 2016

Last year we combined an 82 bushel per acre malt barley crop on this field. The soil was well supplied with water at seeding time and the May to July rain was 10.5 inches so it was well set for next year.

October 5, 6, 2016

A foot of wet, heavy snow left 1.6 inches of water in rain gauges and a bit more rain in October brought the May to October total to 17.4 inches. Ouch. The soil was full and the water table was rising.

November 10, 2016

The post-harvest rain and snow brought on much new growth — volunteer canola, sow thistle etc. Most years we might want to spray them out to save moisture, but not this time. Let the weeds grow and use up all the excess water they can.

May 5, 2017

Little snow plus an early, warm spring brought quick growth of winter annuals — sow thistle etc. One litre per acre of glyphosate applied on this date gave a quick and thorough burndown.

May 10, 2017

Our good neighbour, Curtis Block, seeded 2.5 bu./ac. of peas with his Seed Hawk. Cell-Tech granular inoculant was applied with the seed, but no fertilizer. The field was so wet that several acres could not be seeded. There was little point in waiting a few days as those areas had a high water table and would not be good for seeding for weeks.

The 1.5 inches of rain that came in May served only to bring up the water table in parts of the quarter.

May 12, 2017

The field was harrowed and rolled to make a nice flat surface for straight cutting in fall. The wet conditions meant that all stones were also well “planted.”

June 5, 2017

The crop was sprayed with Viper herbicide (Group 2 and Group 6) at label rate and at the perfect crop stage. Weed control was slow but good.

About June 10, 2017

On areas that were too wet to seed in May, I broadcast canola and worked it in with a cultivator with mounted tine harrows. It was still plenty wet and the canola established well. The idea was to use up water and keep the weeds at bay.

June 26, 2017

By June 26 the crop was doing well on high ground. From June 1 to 30 there was 1.5 inches of rain. It came in small shots of 0.2 to 0.4 inches.

The crop was doing well on high ground by June 26, 2017. photo: Les Henry

July 11, 2017

The crop was sprayed with Priaxor fungicide. I think that was a waste of money. I could see no difference in a check strip that was left. From July 1 to 31 there was 0.9 inches of rain in small shots of 0.1 to 0.5 inches.

August 10, 2017

Pre-harvest spray of one l/ac. glyphosate (Group 9) plus label rate of Heat LQ (Group 14). The crop was mostly ripe but some late germinating weeds still green. The herbicide worked very slow because of dry conditions, but it did work.

Combining in progress, August 19, 2017. With my two neighbours’ big Green S 680 combines and a grain cart it was a small job. photo: Les Henry

August 19, 2017

Crop combined (see photo above). The yield was 37 bu./ac., net sold. With my two neighbours’ big Green S 680 combines and a grain cart it was a small job. Even with only 2.4 inches of rain in June and July the yield was limited by too wet rather than too dry.

The yield monitors confirmed that most of the peas came from the higher, drier ground. On the highest, driest knoll the pea crop sucked the soil completely dry to two feet and had the third foot about half dry.

August 24, 2017

By August 24, the best of the mid-June broadcast canola is shown in the photo below. There was too little area to bring swather and combine back in, but it did meet the objective of using up water and it really did keep the weeds down.

By August 24, the best of the mid-June broadcast canola looked like this. photo: Les Henry

Post harvest

The dry conditions in 2017 have dried up sloughs that we have not seen the bottoms of for eight years. About three decent rains since mid-September (2.75 inches) have recharged soil moisture to the point that I am prepared to start spending money on a 2018 crop.

About the author


Les Henry

J.L.(Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He recently finished a second printing of “Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water,” a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Les will cover the shipping and GST for “Grainews” readers. Simply send a cheque for $50 to Henry Perspectives, 143 Tucker Cres., Saskatoon, Sask., S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book.



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