Amid descriptions that ranged from “not bad” to a simple six-letter word summary that begins with “SH” and ends with “TY” (fill in the blank), the 2009 growing season is over and Prairie farmers are well into harvest.
How did the year go? What crop varieties did you like or not like? Those are the main questions posed to the October farmer panel. There certainly was varied response among the four farmers interviewed on the questions. Cool weather was the common denominator. Aside from that, it was either extremely wet or extremely dry, and some degree in between, depending where you lived.
Our panel all had crop varieties that performed better than others and some were looking to try new varieties next year. Those facing the most extreme conditions agreed if there are too many back-to-back years like this, they won’t be around much longer to comment.
Here is what our October panel had to say:
AN DREW PEDEN MINBURN, ALTA.
Andrew Peden used that single “sh—” word to describe growing conditions on his northeast Alberta farm at Minburn, just south and west of Vermilion. If it wasn’t the dry weather that really hampered germination, the repeat frosts through May and June had the final word on 900 acres of canola on his farm that was declared a write-off by early July.
Peden says it was the coldest/ driest growing season he has experienced on his 2,700 acre grain and oilseed farm. Peas, which were already harvested at the time of the mid-September interview, yielded about 60 per cent below average and the hard red spring wheat, although it was still to be combined, was probably about 20 per cent below average. The canola had already been sprayed out with hopes of a better year in 2010.
“It was just a poor growing season in all respects,” says Peden. “I’ve never seen conditions this cold and dry since I’ve been farming, and I think it was similar in many parts of the province. Crops were slow to germinate, and then we had frost. Weed control wasn’t very effective, and now it has been so dry, even desiccating the crops isn’t working. There isn’t enough moisture to carry the desiccant.”
Peden seeded both InVigor and Clearfield canola varieties in 2009. Although neither survived to make a crop, he says at least the InVigor made an effort. “If I learned one thing, it’s that the hybrid vigour does make a difference,” he says. “All the canola was poor and then the frost got it, but at least the InVigor gave it a try and did germinate. The Clearfield canola didn’t even germinate. The hybrid vigour was certainly obvious.” Peden says he is looking to try some new canola varieties in 2010 but hasn’t made a decision.
His Cooper-variety green peas yielded about 25 bushels per acre, compared to a more average yield of about 60 bushels per acre in his region. The peas had good germination, but then with the cold and dry conditions they just sat there. They were only about three inches tall at the five-node stage. Cooper is a pea variety develop through the Cebeco International Seeds (European) breeding program.
The Harvest-variety wheat, marketed by Quality Assured Seeds, has done better than he expected. It struggled to germinate as well, and produced an uneven stand with second growth and green patches, but he hopes that desiccating the crop with glyphosate will eventually kick in and help dry it down for straight combining.
He grew about 300 acres of wheat. This was the sixth year he had grown Harvest. “It is yielding about 36 bushels per acre, which is definitely below more average yields of 45 to 50 bushels per acre for this area,” he says. “It is quite a difference from last year, although it was an exceptional year, when yields were about 60 bushels per acre.
“Now the challenge is to get what we do have harvested,” he says. “Pretty well everything is about three weeks late, so we just need this good fall weather to continue.”
TOM KIEPER RUSSELL, MAN.
Tom Kieper crops about 3,400 acres near the Saskatchewan border, and he didn’t get the moisture that farmers in Eastern Manitoba received. He had barely enough rain early on, then got a couple of later rains that helped produce “a not bad crop” for 2009.
With AC Metcalfe and Legacy malt barley the only crop harvested at the time of the mid-September interview, he said yields were “a good average,” although canola and flax crops were looking the best considering the growing season.
“We were extremely dry here with only about six tenths of an inch by June 3. Then we had a bit more which took us to nine tenths going into July,” he says. “But then with a bit more moisture, things really picked up in July. The barley was really short, but it was surprising how much grain there was.”
The AC Metcalfe, a two row, yielded about 70 bushels per acre while the Legacy six row yielded about 80 bushels. Next year he plans to seed Tradition, a new six-row variety from Viterra, which not only is high yielding but has been bred to produce the quality components maltsters are looking for.
Oats, “which have been my favorite crop for the past 10 years,”, says Kieper, looked to be doing well. For the past four years he has been growing Furlong, a tan milling oat, which has produced good yields and a heavy bushel weight.
Marketed to Quaker Oats, Furlong yields have been about 125 bushels per acre at a contract price of $4 per bushel, and a 40 to 44 pound bushel weight. “This year I have 120 tonnes locked in at $4 per bushel,” says Kieper. “It has consistently been one of the most profitable crops we produce.” Although at one time he had a problem with the crop lodging, he changed agronomic practices a few years ago — applying less fertilizer — and now the crop stands much better.
His challenge with oats this year is late-germinating wild oats that appeared after spraying. To reduce the risk of getting wild oat seed mixed with the milling oat, he won’t harvest the field until after the wild oats have shelled out.
For the past few years (including 2009), Kieper has grown Superb and AC Barrie hard red spring wheat, but he plans to try two new varieties in 2010. One is a new bearded wheat from SeCan. “I can’t remember the name of new varieties at the moment, but both are considerably higher yielding, so I want to give them a try,” says Kieper.
Among oilseeds, he has been growing the “tried and true” Dekalb 71-45 along with two of the Cargill specialty-oil varieties 1035 and 1037, which are both identity preserved (IP). He plans to try a new higher yielding Dekalb variety in 2010.
“I wouldn’t say some of the current varieties have hit a wall, but I’m always looking at new varieties and you have to try them out,” he says. “While the variety trial information is useful, the fact is that some varieties work better in some areas than others.”
For the second year, he’s growing a new flax variety, CDC Sorrel, which appears to be a high yielder and also stands well. Again by reducing the amount of nitrogen applied to the crop, it appears to be standing better this year. And about every four years, depending on markets, he also includes some mustard in the rotation. This year he is growing AC Andante, a new yellow mustard that he has locked in at 33 per pound.
“Now, like everyone else, I just hope for decent weather so I can get the crop combined,” says Kieper. “Usually I have the barley combined by August 20 and this year we are just finishing the barley on September 15, so everything is about three weeks behind.”
DARIN EGERT CANDO, SASK.
Darin Egert, learned this year to appreciate the “elastic” capability of canola to fill in a very thin stand he almost sprayed out in early July. Egert, who along with his father and brother, crop about 4,200 acres at Cando, northwest of Saskatoon, reseeded part of a quarter section of canola that had been hit by frost three times after germination. He had planned to spray out another 60 acres “that was just a few plants and a lot of black dirt” before he went on holidays. He never got it done and when he came back from holidays, “the whole field was yellow, which made me think maybe I should have left more of it,” he says.
Egert grew one new canola variety this year —Pioneer Hi-Bred 45H28 — and two older varieties, 45H26 and InVigor 8440. “Right now it is all looking pretty good,” he says. The new variety, 45H28, is about three days later in maturity than the other Pioneer variety.
At the time of the mid-September interview, Egert had harvested peas and malt barley. Unlike other farmers in western Canada who faced either too wet or too dry conditions during the growing season, he says other than it being cool, his crops for the most part had adequate, but not surplus, moisture.
The Delta and Admiral yellow field peas averaged about 45 bushels per acre, with one field yielding nearly 60 bushels. His AC Metcalfe malt barley came off at about 65 bushels per acre. Both peas and barley appear to have good quality.
For the second year, he grew both AC Intrepid and AC Infinity hard red spring wheat. He says the two varieties, which have similar yield potential, are both looking “reasonably good.” AC Intrepid appears to have more even maturity and is about three days earlier than AC Infinity.
The lentils appear to be the most disappointing crop. He bought one seed batch that was supposed to be Impact, but later found it was not resistant to Odyssey herbicide, so that field has weeds. And even though he treated the crop early for disease, “too much rain” in August resulted in a second outbreak which has reduced yield.
Egert says he is considering at a couple new hard red spring varieties for 2010. They appear to be much higher yielding — up to about 75 bushels per acre, whereas his crop runs at about 45 bushels — but he also has to consider he has seen only one field of the big yield variety and it’s 90 per cent lodged.
With crop maturity 10 to 12 days later this year, he is hoping to resume harvest in late September and straight cut as much as he can, including some of the canola.
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]