On a mild spring afternoon, with clouds overhead bluffing rain, the Pawliw family was harvesting the last of the 2016 crop.
“We had about 100 acres of canola we took off earlier,” said Tracy Pawliw, as he took a brief break from combining a field of hard red spring wheat near Glaslyn, Sask. Glaslyn is about 67 km north of North Battleford.
Tracy and his brother, Myles, were about two-thirds done that last field of wheat on May 10. That late harvest has pushed seeding back a few days. The wheat coming off will be feed quality, and Pawliw would rather be combining in the fall.
“But we’re just happy we’re able to get it off without having to burn it.”
The Pawliws were far from the only farmers with 2016 crop lingering into the spring. Poor harvest weather left up to two million acres of grains and oilseeds unharvested in Western Canada this spring, leaving everyone from farmers to traders concerned about seeding delays in 2017.
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The latest Saskatchewan Crop Report estimates that 11 per cent of the Saskatchewan crop is seeded, as of May 8. The five-year average for this period is 16 per cent. Seeding progress varies greatly throughout the province, with the northeast reporting one per cent of the crop seeded, and the southeast reporting 30 per cent.
Wide variations exist within regions as well. Dave Shepherd, location manager for AgriTeam in Glaslyn, estimated that Glaslyn-area farmers had, at most, three per cent of the 2017 crop seeded on May 10. Some farmers are still combining, he added, and everything was running late compared to normal.
But about 40 km west, the story is quite different. Farmers in the Turtleford area were about 20 to 25 per cent done seeding, which is close to normal, said Ian Weber. Weber is the sales manager for Warrington AgroDynamic in Mervin.
Travel north to St. Walburg and the picture changes again. Weber said that while most farmers there had wrapped harvest, they had “barely started” seeding. He estimated St. Walburg-area farmers had up to 10 per cent of the seed in the ground, as of May 11.
Weather has played a role in those differences. Rainfall in the northwest ranged from trace amounts to 27 mm around Duck Lake in the first week of May. The Glaslyn area saw 10 mm of rain, and Turtleford 4 mm.
“Don’t get stuck”
How does a farmer pull off a spring harvest?
“Don’t get stuck,” Tracy Pawliw said. “Be careful. We don’t go after dark, really, because you can’t tell where the low spots are.”
Weber said seeding conditions are “on the wet side” this year, although things are getting better. Some of the fields farmers planned to seed to peas are too wet right now, he added, so farmers are seeding where they can.
Farmers in his area are also switching some of those pea fields to other crops, Weber said, mainly canola. “Wheat acres are down in general, I would say.”
Pawliw said despite the late start, they haven’t changed their cropping plans. And he’s still optimistic about the 2017 season.
“We’ve harvested in the spring before. It’s been a while, but we have.”