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Here Comes Harvest – for Sep. 6, 2010

Few farmers can talk about the 2010 harvest without first mentioning the impact of the wet growing season. Crops that did make it through the 50 to 100 per cent above average moisture in many parts of Western Canada are looking not too bad, although — as is quickly pointed out — any above-average yields have to be offset by drowned-out acres that produced little or nothing.

Despite best or at least routine efforts to control weeds in crop, most farmers report higher weed pressure developed as the summer progressed. That means more farmers are looking at pre-harvest treatments to control weeds and desiccate crops, or are already planning their post-harvest herbicide applications.

Here is what this month’s Farmer Panel had to say about harvest management:

DOYLE WIEBE LANGHAM, SASK.

Depending on how field conditions developed over mid to late August would determine how Doyle Wiebe approached harvest management this fall.

He was planning a usual strategy of applying a pre-harvest application of glyphosate to control weeds and help dry down the wheat on his Langham-area farm, northwest of Saskatoon, but if fields were too wet to get on the land with a field sprayer before harvest, he would have to look at a post-harvest treatment.

Wiebe, who along with his family crops about 4,500 acres of wheat, barley and canola, says about 20 inches of moisture between April and mid-July had produced just a so-so crop. He was able to get all seeding done, but some areas drowned out, others were half drowned, and of the crop that did grow, “many fields didn’t look all that healthy.”

“The crops weren’t a great col-our, although it did improve, we had leaf diseases that we’d never been concerned about before, and the canola didn’t do as well because it was so shallow-rooted,” he says. “The soil was saturated, plants didn’t root well and it didn’t flower very long, so it will be a lighter crop.”

Wiebe said all crops were one week or more later than usual. He got the canola seeded first, but wasn’t able to seed barley until June. He expected to be swathing canola by about mid-August. He usually applies the pre-harvest treatment to wheat by about the third week of August, but for crop maturity reasons that would likely be delayed a week or so. Because of the late seeding date, the barley is about three weeks later than usual.

Fields are showing more weed pressure this fall. He did apply in-crop treatments, but with good moisture, thinner stands and bare areas because of excessive moisture, a new generation of weeds was out there. “I can walk into a lot of fields that I did spray and it makes me wonder ‘did I miss this field?’ The weeds have come back pretty good,” he says. A pre-harvest treatment helps to knock back weeds such as quackgrass and Canada thistle. They can be dealt with postharvest, but then he’d miss out on the dry-down (desiccation) benefit of the treatment, in helping the wheat to dry down more evenly.

He says a pre-harvest treatment is becoming a common practice in his area. It really paid off last year, helping him to get the crop dried a week or more sooner, so he was able to combine before that month of cold, wet weather settled in in October.

While Wiebe will swath his 1,800 acre canola crop, he straight cuts the 2,700 acres of wheat and barley.

Wiebe says the Langham area was in a transition zone between areas east of him where they started the year with excess moisture and areas west where the year began with concerns about being too dry. “So when it started to rain it took a while before we reached that saturation point, but we did and now the water table is quite high,” he says. “We haven’t had much rain since mid-July but the ground was saturated. And while the weather has been good for growing, the humidity has been high, so it hasn’t dried out very much.”

During the early August interview, Wiebe says even if field conditions aren’t perfect, me may apply the pre-harvest treatment to speed up harvest.

KEVIN SERFAS TURIN, ALTA.

The biggest question about harvest for Kevin Serfas was just the timing to get everything done. Even with a long stretch of good weather, he figures it will take them until late October to combine their 35,000 acres of grains and oilseeds near Lethbridge, Alta.

“The main thing right now is to get the harvest done,” he says. “And if we start getting behind we may have to pull in some extra help (and) just put more machines in the field.”

Kevin is part of Serfas Farms Ltd., which, along with an extensive cropping operation, also includes a 5,000-head feedlot, headquartered at Turin, north of Lethbridge. He’s partnered in the business with his brother Mark and their father, Herb.

After a protracted seeding season — April 6 to July 6 — “it took a third of the year just to get the seeding done,” he estimates about 70 per cent of the crop looks very good and 30 per cent is “sh–.” The 30 per cent is either drowned out completely or distressed due to the excessive moisture over the season, which saw more than 20 inches of rain dumped on Lethbridge and area.

As of the mid-August interview, Serfas says the canola and early-seeded barley were on par for maturity, wheat was about 10 days late and corn for silage was a good two weeks late.

He hoped to start swathing feed barley by August 18 and the canola by the fourth week of August. He didn’t expect to be combining wheat until September.

One application Serfas does plan to make this year, which they don’t usually need, is a pre-harvest application of glyphosate on wheat more for the dry-down benefit rather than weed control.

“Normally we don’t have to do this, but we’re hoping if we desiccate the wheat that will knock a week off maturation,” he says.

DARREN WHETTER HARTNEY, MAN.

With about 50 per cent more rain this growing season than they usually receive, Darren Whetter says excess moisture was a concern on their southwest Manitoba farm, but perhaps not as big a problem as it was in some parts of Western Canada.

With about 16 inches of rain between March and July, 10 to 15 per cent of their seeded acres were drowned out, they saw more disease pressure than usual, and weed control was an issue.

“Probably the most challenging part of the season involved spraying operations,” he says. “Fields were wet and we had to outfit the sprayer with wider tires and travel with about half the amount of liquid in the sprayer tank,” he says. They got the job done without any serious rutting in the field, but it took longer.

Whetter, who crops about 2,600 acres of spring wheat, winter wheat, canola, peas and soybeans for mostly pedigree seed production, says most of the crops that did survive are looking good and on par for maturity with other years.

With about 25 per cent of the farm in winter wheat, he was able to straight cut that crop in early August, with average to slightly above average yield. One difference this year, however, was to get the winter wheat off during a good weather window he had to combine it at higher moisture and store it in aeration bins. It was harvested at 15 to 17 per cent moisture.

Peas probably suffered the most due to excess moisture, he says. By August 12 he had combined some of the peas. The crop suffered from root rot and pea size was small. While he can’t use a pre-harvest glyphosate treatment on crops because of its potential affect on seed germination, he was planning to use a dry-down product such as Reglone in peas. “It is more expensive and an extra cost, but it will help even out maturity in the crop and hopefully improve quality,” he says.

With the canola crop looking quite good, he had started swathing it by the second week of August. “It was a tough call on when to start swathing, just because the maturity was so varied,” says Whetter. “In some areas the crop was starting to shatter and in other areas it was really quite green. So I tried to pick a time that wasn’t too late or too early.”

His first-ever crop of Roundup Ready soybeans was looking “really good.” It seemed to like the moisture, and reasonable heat during July and August had helped it mature.

The spring wheat crop was looking good and on schedule. Whetter grew newer varieties with improved resistance to fusarium head blight. He had used a fungicide, in crop, as well to control the disease, and despite disease-conducive growing conditions the crop showed few signs of the disease. He expects he may be putting spring wheat in aeration bins as well.

“Overall our harvest schedule doesn’t appear to be much different this year than other years,” he says. “Excess moisture was a challenge, but I think we escaped the severe conditions. There has been a lot of weed pressure this year, which we will have to address with a post-harvest treatment this fall. We are seeing a lot more Canada thistle this year than before.”

Whetter hopes to be combining some of the early seeded canola by late August and will seed about 600 acres of winter wheat in early September. “I like to keep winter wheat in rotation because it helps to ease things up during the spring-seeding season, and also gives you an early start on harvest,” he says.

LeeHartisafieldeditorforGrainewsin Calgary,Contacthimat403-592-1964orby emailat [email protected]

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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