Farmers crossing their fingers as crops seen very healthy

Risk for sclerotinia seen as very high for some canola growers

A canola field blooms west of Fairholme, in north-western Saskatchewan. Crops are generally even and lush in the areas around Glaslyn and Mervin, according to the local ag retailers.

The crops bordering Highway 3, between Glaslyn and Turtleford, are even and lush. Canola is blooming. Peas are flowering.

Crops look so good, “it’s kind of scary,” said Geoff Schick, assistant location manager at AgriTeam in Glaslyn, Sask.

And it’s not only farmers in north-western Saskatchewan who are crossing their fingers for a bumper crop. The latest Saskatchewan Agriculture Crop Report noted that most crops are in good to excellent condition.

Schick estimated crops are a week or more ahead of normal. Ian Weber said farmers are reporting canola is 10 days to two weeks ahead of 2015’s crop. Wheat is also ahead compared to last year, he said. Weber is sales manager for Warrington AgroDynamic in Mervin, Sask.

But thick canopies and regular rain showers raise disease risk. While there is little crop damage reported, disease and flooding were causing the majority of problems, according to the crop report.

Both Schick and Weber said farmers are applying more fungicide than last year to wheat, peas, and canola. Most wheat and peas will get one pass of fungicide, said Weber.

And while not every canola producer will be spraying for sclerotinia, the risk is “very high” this year, Weber said. Apothecia, which produce the sclerotinia spores, have been found in canola fields, he added.

Wheat growers should also be prepared to spray for fusarium, Weber said, as wheat crops approach that critical stage.

“Crops are very healthy for the most part,” said Weber. But they’ll still need regular rain throughout the growing season to fill bins.

The latest crop report noted that the lingering dry pockets in the northwest received much needed rain in the last week, but many areas still need more rain to push crops, hay, and pasture to the next stage of growth.

Some parts of the province are seeing moisture shortages. In west-central Saskatchewan, the crop district that includes Wilkie and Kerrobert reported 37 per cent of cropland and 45 per cent of hayland and pasture is short on topsoil moisture.

Meanwhile, some farmers are dealing with too much water.  The south-east and east-central regions are reporting localized flooding and stress from excess moisture.

Moisture (or lack thereof) and disease aren’t the only things threatening potential bin-busters. The crop report notes higher than normal numbers of cabbage seedpod weevils in some parts of the southwest. At least one farmer in the Glaslyn area lost several acres of canola to cutworms this spring.

And the insects are just getting started.  Farmers should keep an eye out for the usual suspects—Weber listed grasshoppers, lygus bugs, bertha armyworms, and diamondback moths as ones to watch this year.

“Just keep monitoring your crop,” he said.

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