You know it’s a crappy harvest season when I can phone farmers, almost anywhere in Western Canada at 8 a. m. on a weekday morning in mid-September and still find them fairly close to their home phone.
Some farmers in Manitoba were midway through or wrapping up harvest, while many in Saskatchewan and Alberta were waiting to get going. As of mid-September much of the crop wasn’t mature and in many areas the weather wasn’t cooperating even if it was ready.
A lot of crops had a pre-harvest dry-down treatment to even maturity and control weeds, a lot more swathing was done this fall again to even maturity ahead of frost and possibly flurries, and some producers were lining up more iron so they’d have increased harvest capacity when there was a good weather window.
One southern Alberta producer, not far north of the Montana border, says watching the long-range U. S. weather forecast didn’t show much change in the unsettled weather until early October. With only 10 per cent of his crop combined, he was hoping that forecast was wrong.
The late season has many producers wondering about their fall plans. A few people have even dragged out the “T” word— tillage— this year, as a means of managing weeds and helping saturated soils to dry.
All those “wet” words apply to much of the southern Prairies. In the Alberta and B. C. Peace River region it is a whole other situation, although wouldn’t you know it after a long hot, dry summer — the third or fifth in a row — when it came time to harvest what little crop they had in mid-September, it was raining, too. The moisture was welcome, but it had them on hold, and was starting to affect crop grade.
When asked what varieties did best under their growing conditions, as well as their post-harvest plans this year, this is what producers contacted for the October farmer panel had to say:
LINDA NIELSEN STARB UCK, MAN.
Not that Linda Nielsen needed any further evidence that it was a wet summer and early fall, but seeing a muskrat swimming in a canola field as she tried to harvest a wet, weedy crop just underscored the fact it has been a crazy year.
Nielsen, who crops about 500 acres near Starbuck, just west of Winnipeg, was relieved that after fighting a month of wet weather and soggy fields she was done with the bulk of harvest by mid-September. She still had 60 acres of flax to go, but that is a durable crop which can hold up for another three or four weeks as it dried down.
Nielsen, who shares equipment with her brother who farms nearby, says despite eight inches of rain in August, there was a 10-day stretch of good weather, that allowed them to get most of the cereals combined.
Hard Red Spring wheat yielded about 45 bushels per acre, with a No. 2 grade and only 0.6 per cent fusarium head blight. Part of her crop had been seeded to a new Richardson variety WR859 CL, which is supposed to have improved fusarium resistance. She also sprayed with the crop with the new BASF fungicide Caramba.
“It wasn’t great, but it could have been worse,” she says. “Some farmers in the area were getting No. 1 wheat which has less than .25 per cent fusarium, but I don’t know what they were growing. The thing is that conditions were so variable here, mile to mile across Manitoba.”
Oats only yielded about 60 bushels per acre and the canola averaged 22 bushels. Some parts of the field were up to about 50 bushels and one-third of her field she didn’t even harvest because it was so weedy and wet.
She relates her lessons of the season: She’s not going to bring in field sprayers, if conditions are ever this wet, again. There were too many ruts which just held water and created dams in the field. She’ll either skip spraying and live with the weeds, or hire an aerial applicator.
Looking at fall work, Nielsen hopes it dries enough so she can cultivate fields before winter, although like other area farmers she may drag out an old discer and work the fields to get rid of some moisture. She’s not considering any fertilizer this fall, again because it is so wet, it could be lost.
She’ll see what conditions are like in the spring. She’ll definitely need a pre-seeding spring burnoff with glypyhosate to deal with a serious weed problem.
TIM CHARABIN NORT HBATTLEFORD, SASK.
Tim Charabin who crops about 10,000 acres of mostly commercial and some pedigree seed production near North Battleford, Sask., had only about 15 per cent of the crop harvested by mid-September and was waiting for the weather to improve.
On the commercial side he grows peas, wheat and canola and has about 1,700 acres of pedigree seed that includes lentils, barley and oats.
Although the real proof will be at harvest, Charabin says a new midge-tolerant wheat variety, AC Goodeve VB appears to have done well this year despite high wheat midge pressure in his area. He has grown it previously for pedigree seed production and comparing it to other Hard Red Spring wheats it has improved yield and holds its grade much better.
While there is way more weed pressure than usual, he says he plans to follow his normal postharvest routine this fall. He sprays pretty well everything, weather permitting, with a glyphosate in the fall, and usually discs up the low spots to control weeds and help dry out the soil.
BR IAN RUSK NIPAWIN, SASK.
In northeast Saskatchewan, Brian Rusk figures he may apply anhydrous ammonia this fall, to increase nitrogen in the soil and also with hopes the tillage will help fields dry out a bit.
Rusk, who crops about 1,700 acres near Nipawin, only had about 15 per cent of his crop harvested by mid-September and with showery/ cool conditions, the remainder wasn’t ripening very fast.
“We did get most of our wheat combined,” he says. “The yield was down, the quality was good, but the protein is down. We didn’t apply as much nitrogen this spring because it looked like it was going to be a cool, wet growing season. That’s why we’re planning to apply more nitrogen for next year to get that protein up.
Although he hasn’t finished his seeding plans for next year, he’ll apply some anhydrous ammonia this fall, and will also increase granular fertilizer rates at seeding next spring.
BR IAN COR NS GRASSY LAKE, ALTA.
Like many farmers, Brian Corns, who farms at Grassy Lake, east of Lethbridge, Alta., was sitting in mid- September with about 10 per cent of his crop harvested, waiting for weather to improve and crops to mature.
He had harvested some winter wheat and some early-seeded spring wheat, but everything else was on hold.
With their whole cropping system including variety, type and time of seeding based on some sort of “normal” growing season that is relatively dry, with warm, dry winds in the fall “everything is as abnormal as it has ever been, with a completely upside-down year,” he says.
The cool, wet growing season has certainly suited forage and cereal crops, with potential for exceptional yields when it is harvested, although quality won’t be known until it is in the bin.
He has been impressed with Canterra canola varieties, which appear to have done very well under these wet conditions, but again it is yet to be combined.
With a forecast of more unsettled weather and even the talk of snow, many farmers including themselves have decided to swath more crops this year, which they normally don’t do. Corns had had a swather running for 14 days straight. It may help preserve crop quality, but will add two to five per cent more to combining time. Like other producers, he had recently bought a second combine so as weather improves he can get crops combined in a narrowing harvest window.
All weeds appear to have flourished this year, although thistles and foxtail barley have been particularly bad. While it is not uncommon for him to apply mechanical treatment to two or three particularly bad spots on the farm, this year he expects that 10 to 15 per cent of his seeded acres will need some type of remedial action. That action usually involves going in with a flail to knock weeds down, disc and cultivate.
In wetter areas that had already been harvested, he’d knocked back the weeds and seeded winter wheat, although it required a pull-tractor on the seeding system to prevent it from getting stuck. He says if he doesn’t do it now and wet conditions persist, he won’t be able to do anything with these areas next spring.
MART IN MOORE FORT ST. JOHN, B. C.
Martin Moore jokingly says he hopes he lives long enough to see another decent growing season in the B. C. Peace River region. There hasn’t been one for a few years.
Moore, who crops about 1,500 acres of canola, wheat and barley says he combined one hopper of barley in late August, but since then (up to mid-September) rain was holding things up.
“It was just a very, very dry year here,” he says. “We had some snow right after seeding which gave everyone hope it was going to be a good year, but that was about it. On a scale of one to 10 (one being the driest) it was about a three. This rain is welcome because we need the moisture, but it would also be good to combine the crop we do have.”
Despite the third or fourth year of drought conditions, he continues to be impressed with one of the earlier hybrid canola varieties Invigor 5020. “It is amazing how well it does with such little moisture,” he says. “It does much better over some of the open-pollinated canola varieties.”
With all canola swathed, he says some doesn’t look too bad, but in other areas “you could roll two swaths together, and still need a foam marker to see where they are.”
RO SS RAVELLI DAWSON CREEK, B. C.
With about 25 per cent of his 3,000 acres combined as of mid- September, Ross Ravelli of Dawson Creek, B. C. says most crops are yielding 30 to 50 per cent below normal due to the drought.
The three inches of rain since mid-August has been welcome, but it won’t help the current crop and in fact if the showers continued, grade on wheat could drop further. So far his wheat had come off with a No. 2 grade.
Ravelli felt it was too early to make judgments on variety performance. A new pea variety yielded about 21 bushels per acre, and Hard Red Spring wheat would probably yield 50 per cent of average.
“We do quite a bit of pre-harvest herbicide treatment, so we don’t need to deal with weeds after harvest,” he says. He’ll have to make a decision about whether and how much fertilizer to apply this fall.
He is making a conscious effort to cut the crop as tall as possible, so standing stubble is able to trap snow this winter.
A general concern he has for 2011, is with four to five consecutive years of drought, the yield averages on which crop insurance is based, are dropping. “Lower yields has meant an erosion of coverage, so we could get to a point where support from the program may not cover our input costs,” he says.
LeeHartisafieldeditorforGrainewsin Calgary.Contacthimat403-592-1964orby emailat [email protected]