Pre-And Post-Harvest Treatments Are As Variable As The Weather

It seems the feast or famine weather scenario continues across Western Canada as farmers head into what may or may not be a delayed harvest season depending on where you farm.

Farmers contacted in mid-August for the September Farmer Panel, describe a wide range of crop and ground conditions that include — believe it or not — parts of Manitoba that are too dry versus some fields in central Alberta where water lays in tram line ruts in the field. Crop conditions range from about average, to “so-so,” and there is a good percentage of “fabulous stands” in the descriptions as well.

Farmers for this panel were asked what their plans are for pre-and/or post-harvest weed control and desiccation treatments, and that varied widely too. For those planning pre-harvest treatments the concern was more about crop dry-down and maturity than weed control.

Some were swathing as of mid- August, others didn’t see harvest starting until at least the first week of September and the big concern on everyone’s mind was the five-letter “F” word— frost. Will it hold off long enough for crops to mature?

Craig Shaw who farms near Lacombe, Alta., says some neighbours had already (August 18) reported frost on the windshield in recent mornings. Shaw, whose crops were adversely affected by excessive moisture this year, says the one consolation is “at least I have some type of crop to complain about. Not every body does.”

And Brad Hanmer who farms near Govan, Sask., north of Regina says he is convinced these volatile — wide swings — in weather conditions and markets are likely just a fact of life now for Prairie producers.

Here is what the Farmer Panel had to say about their plans for pre-and/or post-harvest herbicide treatments:

ERIC FRIDFINNSON ARBORG, MAN.

Eric Fridfinnson who commonly applies a pre-harvest treatment on cereals says there won’t be much of that this year. He only got 160 acres each of wheat and oats seeded this past spring. He may apply some glyphosate to help even out dry-down in the cereals, but his main focus will be on a post-harvest treatment to control winter annuals and perennials.

Fridfinnson, who along with his brother Brian, crops about 5,000 acres, at Arborg, in east-central Manitoba, north of Winnipeg, says despite excessive moisture this spring he did manage to get 80 per cent of his farm seeded. He was able to seed the cereals and soybeans, but canola and flax had to be broadcast seeded and then harrowed. “Broadcast seeding worked fairly well, and actually I was impressed with how well the flax germinated under that system — even better than the canola,” he says.

But conditions took a dramatic change after seeding. “On some of our farm we only had half an inch of rain all summer, so we are dry here,” says Fridfinnson. “It is getting a bit late now, but the canola could use some rain. There is still some crop out there, but rain would be welcome.”

Fridfinnson says overall he expects crops to produce “a little less than average, and despite being dry it is better than being up to our knees in water like we were last year.”

With the hot dry conditions this summer, the late seeded crop had actually caught up to a relatively normal maturity timetable. “We started swathing canola at 80-days, and have about 400 acres done now,” he says (August 18). “And I would suspect we will be ready to straight cut oats next week (fourth week of August).”

He usually applies a post harvest treatment, and expects to again this year, to all cropped acres. He applies glyphosate to control winter annuals, as well as perennials such as quack grass, Canada thistle, and dandelion.

BRAD HANMER GOVAN, SASK.

Brad Hanmer had already applied pre-harvest glyphosate to some of his wheat acres (in mid- August) to help even out dry-down of the crop.

“We don’t spray everything, but take it on a field-by-field basis,” says Hanmer who operates a large intensive grain and oilseed farm as well as a seed business with his parents and two brothers near Govan, Sask., north of Regina. “Sometimes the pre-harvest treatment is targeted at patches of weeds, but usually it is for dry-down in the cereals. The canola we swath and we will use glyphosate on any pulse crops we are not keeping for seed, but we don’t have any pulses this year.”

Hanmer is just thrilled that he has a decent crop heading into harvest this fall. He wasn’t sure what was ahead this spring with extremely wet conditions leading up to the May seeding window.

“It was so wet here that we were always just one rainfall away from a disaster, but we got very little rain in May and that gave us the window to get the crop seeded,” he says. In fact, he says the greatest challenge was not so much about getting the crop seeded, it was getting to the fields. Many of the roads through the RM were impassible or at best in poor condition. “So a lot of our seeding decisions were based on what fields we could reach first and then move trucks and seeding equipment there,” he says. “Because of this road issue we ended up seeding a lot of our wheat first, instead of canola.”

Hanmer estimates they got 85 to 90 per cent of their land seeded. On 155 acre quarters, for example, they were able to seed 135 to 140 acres. The Hanmers’ pulled out all the stops to get it done however — air tanks were equipped with tracks and they also went ahead of most seeding operations with vertical tillage equipment that really helped dry the soil. They used a Salford vertical tillage machine, and also converted their own cultivator to vertical tillage with Wil-Rich vertical tillage (wavy coulter) attachments, bought from Flamans.

While usually they make a good start on harvest in August, the season was running about two weeks late this year. He expected they wouldn’t be combining cereals until September. No canola had been swathed by mid-August.

Post harvest, Hanmer hopes to get over most of the farm with vertical tillage and a herbicide treatment.

“I believe fall is really the time to use the vertical tillage,” he says. “Especially after these wet conditions, it helps to open up that soil profile to dry it out, (and) helps to reduce compaction. It smoothes the field, and gets rid of ruts.” Fall vertical tillage may not be needed every year, but he also sees a fit for a spring treatment in problem areas — around sloughs — to help reduce the size of the wet areas.

With post-harvest herbicide, the cleaner fields may not need it, and in other cases he’ll treat headlands “and any trouble spots.”

“We apply glyphosate and often use different tank mixes particularly on that land that will be seeded to cereals next year,” he says. “Something like narrow-leaved hawk’s-beard can be a real problem in our area, so we may add Express, or 2,4-D to the tank which really helps to sharpen that control.”

DON BOLES THREE HILLS, ALTA.

Don Boles, who farms at Three Hills, northeast of Calgary, says he really isn’t opposed to pre-and post-harvest treatments, “but it is just something we’ve never done a lot of,” he says.

With pre-harvest, Boles doesn’t like the tracks made in the field by the chemical application, and post harvest, “it just seems we never get around to it.”

As of mid-August, Boles, who crops about 3,000 acres, says he was looking at excellent canola and wheat crops, he hoped would mature before frost. “Right now, for farmers in this area, the only thing standing between us and a wonderful, superb crop is frost,” he says. He usually gets a start on harvest in August, especially in years when he grows peas, but he doesn’t believe anyone in the area will be combining in August this year.

Boles, who usually straight cuts cereals, says he may be looking at swathing wheat this year, just because the crop is so

heavy. “It is a very good crop, and I plan to swath it to help even out maturity,” he says. “It might be a way to buy some time as well. And really no spray can do for you what swathing can.”

Post-harvest treatments on his farm “have been very erratic and in small amounts” over the years. “And I look at a year like this, the crops are so good and so unbelievably competitive, I don’t think there is anything growing underneath,” he says.

CRAIG SHAW LACOMBE, ALTA.

It has been such a wet year in the central Alberta region, north of Red Deer, that Craig Shaw says “it looks like it is going to be a long, painful fall” trying to get what crop there is off in reasonable condition.

Shaw does rely on a pre-harvest treatment with glyphosate most years to help dry the cereal crops down. He had applied some glyphosate (as of mid- August) to winter wheat but there was water laying in the tramline tracks, it was a shallow

rooted crop, and heads weren’t filling that well. He is going to need some very decent weather over the coming weeks, without frost, to get the crop in the bin. He had also swathed other winter wheat, which is being produced for seed.

In his area, he figures a wheat crop should be ready for straight combining about 2.5 weeks after the pre-harvest treatment. He likes the crop to be at most at 17 per cent moisture before combining (drier is even better). But at 17 per cent he can put it through the dryer and get it down to 14 per cent or better for safe storage.

“The pre-harvest treatment evens out the moisture level across the field, which makes it easier to dry, and you’re not having to adjust your dryer settings for a wide range of moisture,” he says.

If weather conditions are poor, he will harvest the crop at 20 to 22 per cent moisture. He has some wet storage capacity where he can hold the higher moisture crop until he can get it through the dryer. He also has a grain bagging system, which affords him some flexibility as well. As long as the bags are properly sealed, high moisture grain can sit in bags, in an anaerobic (without oxygen) environment, without spoilage, until it can be dried.

If the weather holds, Shaw hoped he would be combining winter wheat before the end of August — it was about 10 days late. And he didn’t expect to start any spring wheat until the first week of September. He hoped to start swathing canola by late August.

Because the harvest window in his area usually runs into late September and October, there usually isn’t an opportunity for post-harvest treatment. “Usually by the time we are done harvest we are up against frost, or wind or cooler temperatures,” he says. “So the opportunity isn’t there. And in most years too, the pre-harvest treatment usually provides control of perennials such as quackgrass and thistle. So I don’t feel there is a great need for a post-harvest treatment.”

LeeHartisafieldeditorforGrainewsat Calgary.Contacthimat403-592-1964orby emailat [email protected]

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I plan to swath it to help even out maturity. Really, no spray can do for you what swathing can

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Field Editor

Lee Hart

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

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