Sask. farmers nearing the finish line for seeding

Emerging crops see threat of flea beetles, cutworms

Farmers across Saskatchewan are wrapping up seeding earlier than normal. As of May 23, 81 per cent of acres were seeded, compared to the five-year average of 59 per cent, according to the latest Saskatchewan Crop Report.

Farmers in the northwest had 84 per cent of the acres seeded. In the Turtleford and Glaslyn areas, seeding is nearly complete, according to local ag retailers.

“There’s probably just oats and feed left, from what I can see,” said Ian Weber, sales manager with Warrington AgroDynamic of Mervin.

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Further east, staff at Glaslyn’s AgriTeam estimated that five to 10 per cent of crops were left, excluding green feeds.

The big news in the area was the rain over the May long weekend. That rain extinguished the worries that had been smouldering in farmers’ minds.

Rainfall reports in the area varied from a few tenths to a couple of inches. Turtleford reported 48 mm, according to the report.

The crop report notes variable emergence in the northwest. But crop emergence looks good so far in his area, said Dave Shepherd, location manager at AgriTeam. Next on farmers’ lists would be weed control, he said.

Weber also liked what he saw in the fields.

“Emergence has been excellent. Plant counts are there.”

A cereal field east of Livelong. Seed rows are greening up, especially after rains over the May long weekend. Livelong itself saw an inch and 8/10, according to my rain gauge.

A cereal field east of Livelong. Seed rows are greening up, especially after rains over the May long weekend. Livelong itself saw an inch and 8/10, according to my rain gauge.
photo: Lisa Guenther

Watch for flea beetles and cutworms

Of course, as crops emerge, seedlings are susceptible to a host of insects. Most regions reported some flea beetle damage, and both Shepherd and Weber cautioned farmers to keep an eye out for the pests.

“The canola’s probably the first thing guys will be worried about, just with the flea beetle pressure that’s happened in the past years,” said Weber. Early seeded canola was at the two-leaf stage, he said, and a few farmers had already sprayed for the pest.

Striped flea beetles have become a problem in his area, said Weber. While seed treatments control crucifer flea beetles quite well, they’re less effective against striped flea beetles. A recent issue of Canola Watch, the Canola Council’s e-newsletter, advised canola growers to check which species is more common in their fields.

As their name suggests, striped flea beetles have two tan or orange stripes on their backs. Crucifers are solid black. Striped flea beetles also appear earlier than crucifers.

Striped flea beetles have become more common in many regions. Research has shown that populations of either species can fluctuate drastically year to year. For example, one year, striped flea beetles comprised one per cent of the flea beetle population in southern Alberta. The next year, the striped dominated, making up 62 per cent of the population, according to Canola Watch.

Slow to germinate canola is more susceptible to the pests. And both crucifer and striped can overwhelm the seed treatment if their numbers balloon.

Once leaf damage averages 25 per cent, flea beetles have breached the economic threshold. Canola can outgrow flea beetles once it hits the four-leaf stage, according to Canola Watch.

Weber suggested farmers also keep an eye out for cutworms in canola. They’re more likely to be in pea stubble or grassland, he said.

Signs of cutworms include bare patches, clipped plants, and chewed foliage. Cutworms are like vampires, feeding at night and often digging into soil during the day. Canola Watch suggests digging around healthy plants near the chewed-up patches, as those healthy plants are likely the creatures’ next meal.

Because of their nocturnal nature, spraying in the evening or early morning is recommended, said Weber.

“They’re not typically a large problem for us. Even where they are bad, they don’t take out whole fields. They kind of take out patches,” he said.

About the author

Field Editor

Lisa Guenther

Lisa Guenther is field editor for Grainews based at Livelong, Sask. You can follow her on Twitter @LtoG.

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