Crops varied, but production down overall: tour

Regina — Crop conditions across Western Canada ranged from good to poor during CWB tours of the Prairie provinces over the week ended July 24, with ‘variability’ the key word in any discussion on this year’s prospects. Production on canola and wheat will be down overall, but perhaps by not as much as originally thought.

“You know the adage about the glass half full, half empty? Well that’s kind of the case this year,” said CWB market analyst Bruce Burnett when discussing the tour results in Regina on Friday.

Tours left from Winnipeg, Regina, and Saskatoon and covered about 5,000 kilometres, with Burnett surveying additional areas of the Peace River district.

Total Prairie wheat production was pegged at 23.1 million tonnes by the tour, which would be down 21 per cent from the previous year, but above an estimate out earlier this week of only 22 million tonnes.

The canola crop was estimated at 12.5 million tonnes, which would be down 19 per cent on the year, but about 300,000 tonnes above where CWB was forecasting the crop earlier in the week.

Burnett said the eastern tour, which departed from Winnipeg, saw some of the best crops in the Prairies, primarily in Manitoba and Eastern Saskatchewan.

That tour moved from Winnipeg, through St. Malo to Brandon, from there to Yorkton, through Canora and Humboldt, and to Regina.Yield reports for those areas were about average, above average, and record, he said.

The CWB market research team pegged canola yields at 29.3 bushels per acre. The average was brought down by crops in northern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan.

Those on the Calgary tour saw the worst conditions on the Prairies, and focused primarily on durum.

The tour estimated an average yield for durum at about 27.8 bushels per acre. Total durum production was forecast at only 4.2 million tonnes, well below the 5.2 million grown in 2014.

Burnett said durum-growing regions need significant rain in order to maintain that yield.

The Calgary tour moved through Lethbridge, where yields were poor across the board, especially for spring wheat, from there they moved south to dry durum areas, into Medicine Hat and Swift Current, then across the southern part of the province.

“Quite frankly those yields are down 30, 35 per cent,” Burnett said.

The group coming out of Saskatoon saw a range of good and bad crops through parts of North Eastern Saskatchewan and East Central Alberta.

Burnett pegged spring wheat’s average at 38.9 bushels per acre, which is lower than the last three years.

But it doesn’t exactly scream disaster, Burnett said.

“Some very good crops, but as you get closer and closer to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border the crops continually go downhill,” he says.

The Saskatoon tour moved to Lloydminister, from there down to Camrose, and back to Regina.
“Last year this was some of the best crops on the crop tour that we had, this year it’s some of the worst,” Burnett said.

He says those poor growing conditions took a huge toll on canola. “There’s still a lot of growing season left, so this is a snapshot,” he said.

Yields are an indication of potential, but there is still some filling to come. “But we’re definitely seeing the impact of the adverse weather.”

On the upside, Burnett said some tours have seen crops that have survived on little, yet are still doing fine. He said dry subsoil played a huge role in poor crop conditions. But one caveat is dryness allowed farmers to seed earlier. It also means disease pressure hasn’t been as high as in other years.

This year’s wheat crop will also likely be higher protein, due to the warm temperatures and lower moisture, said Burnett.

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