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Clear skies spur harvest work in Sask., Man.

Warm, dry weather over much of Saskatchewan and Manitoba last week allowed farmers to make “significant” harvest progress, the two provinces’ agriculture departments reported Monday.

Saskatchewan farmers have harvested 66 per cent of the 2008 crop, up from 39 per cent the previous week and above the 2003-07 average of 63 per cent, the provincial ag ministry reported.

The province’s harvest is furthest advanced in the southwest at 73 per cent complete, compared to the northwest, which is furthest behind at just 47 per cent.

Saskatchewan’s spring wheat harvest is 64 per cent complete, durum is at 67 per cent, canola at 57 per cent and lentils and peas are at 96 per cent complete. Farmers reported ergot damage in some crops across the east side of the province.

Manitoba producers are racing against the possibility of frost. Light frosts were reported in the province’s southeast and Interlake regions, while a -3°C frost hit the province’s far northwest crop-growing region, but came too late to cause any crop injury. Farmers with long-season crops in the south-central region west of the Red River were reported “relieved” when frost risk in the forecast didn’t materialize.

Manitoba’s cereal harvest ranges from 40 per cent complete in the previously rain-soaked northern Interlake and 50-70 per cent complete in the southwest, to complete or nearly complete in the far northwest, south-central, southeast and southern Interlake regions. Canola crops range from 25-30 per cent complete in the province’s North Parkland to complete or nearly complete in the south-central, south Interlake and southeast regions.

Cereal crops in several regions have taken a bath on quality, with sprouting and bleaching seen in the northwest and central regions, and fusarium becoming an issue in parts of the southwest and southeast.

Producers in the southwest are reported to be baling “large amounts” of straw as pastures begin to dry down and many early-grazed and overgrazed pastures are now “done.” Better harvest weather allowed for “significant progress” in the southeast including some third-cut hay and baling and hauling of straw.

In the Interlake, straw is being baled where possible. A few late cuts of alfalfa hay fields were being baled last week and alfalfa seed fields are also being harvested as hay, the province reported.

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