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Two Seeding Season Strategies

Two relatively large Saskatchewan farmers reflect different approaches to getting the 2011 crop seeded under potentially wet field conditions this spring.

Brad Hanmer who runs an extensive cropping operation with family members at Govan, and Gerrid Gust, who is part of a family farming operation at Davidson — both farms are about an hour north of Regina — are both determined to get crops seeded this spring.

Hanmer’s approach has been more towards “machining up” — get the equipment that can work more efficiently under wet field conditions, while Gust has more of a focus on adjusting rotation and lining up shorter season varieties that can still produce a crop if seeding is delayed.

Both farms experienced exceptional amounts of rainfall in 2011, particularly during the seeding season, but throughout the rest of the growing season, as well. Hanmer says they had to abandon about 25 per cent of their acres just because it was too wet, and then some they did get seeded drowned out afterward. Gust was in a similar situation, with 80 per cent of their crop seeded, but only 75 per cent harvested. For these two producers alone on their combined farms this represents 8,000 to 10,000 acres that didn’t produce a crop.

Encouraged by adequate, if not excessive moisture, to start the year, and strong commodity prices they plan to do all they can to get crop in the ground.

MACHINING UP

Hanmer has made a number of equipment changes for 2011 in a bid to get seeding equipment on fields without sinking out of sight.

“We have invested in new machinery,” he says. “It was a wet May 2010 and then we had 30 inches of rain after that. So I really can’t say now that we know what we are doing. We have never been in a situation like this before. But we are being as prepared as we can.”

Putting tracks on air drill commodity carts and anhydrous ammonia carts is one major step toward keeping equipment from getting stuck.

“Last year we were out there going along and then you would run into these blind spots and the air drill would sink and just about disappear,” he says. “We had three particularly bad situations where we didn’t think we were going to get out.”

Hanmer invested in four universal 32-inch wide track assemblies that can be moved onto different pieces of equipment with adaptor rings. They can be used on commodity carts and then switched over to the grain carts and combines for harvesting if needed. The seeding equipment is pulled by Case IH tractors also equipped with tracks.

He’s also added a second 84-foot-wide Seed Hawk SCT air drill to the equipment line for 2011. He had one Seed Hawk with the sectional shut-off feature in 2010, along with two Flexicoil and Bourgault air seeders, both 57 feet wide. The second Seed Hawk replaces the two 57-footers.

The wider air drills with sectional shut-off, are not only efficient for reducing field overlap, but under wet field conditions, Hanmer says they also reduce the amount of turning and jockeying around needed when working around sloughs or odd shaped areas of the field. The less turning, the less risk of compaction and getting stuck.

He also bought a Salford RTS vertical tillage disc he plans to use ahead of the air seeder, where needed, to help dry out particularly wet spots. The wavy disc design of the Salford fractures the soil profile downward, but doesn’t cause a lot of soil disturbance. Hanmer hopes using the disc will help saturated soils to dry out and it will also remove the tire ruts created during the 2010 production season. If needed, he says he could even put an air kit on the Salford tool bar and seed with it.

“I don’t believe the wet conditions we are seeing is just a one or two year thing,” says Hanmer. “I believe this may be a longer term cycle. And the improved commodity prices give us the incentive to get out there and get every acre seeded.”

FOCUS ON VARIETIES

Gerrid Gust, who farms with family members at Davidson says he has a Plan A crop rotation for 2011, which he’ll follow if there is a more average, timely seeding season, but he also has a Plan B if conditions are wet and seeding is delayed.

Gust hasn’t made any specific changes in his equipment line because of the wet conditions. He will be using a new air drill in 2011, but that was a planned purchase, not influenced by field conditions. The only other change in equipment planning this year is to already be looking at increasing swather capacity this fall since he does plan to seed more canola this spring.

“We don’t have a come-hell-or- high-water attitude when it comes to seeding this spring, but we are lining up other crop genetics so if we do have a later seeding season at least we can get something seeded,” says Gust.

He is significantly cutting back on lentil acres this spring. About half their cropped acres has been seeded to lentils, but they didn’t do well under extremely wet conditions, and disease levels were also increasing. The lentil acres will go into canola for 2011. And he won’t be growing mustard in 2011, either.

The planned rotation for 2011 includes more canola, fewer lentils, winter wheat which was seeded last fall, malt barley, AC Andrew wheat which is a soft white wheat suitable for ethanol processing at Terra Grain Fuels at Belle Plain, Sask., and durum wheat.

If seeding is delayed, Gust has also lined up a shorter season DeKalb hybrid canola variety, which has a one-week shorter maturity, for later seeding. And he also has lined up oats, if he needs another late seeded crop.

“On some of the land we seeded last year we had some amazing crops,” says Gust. “So we are hoping with this moisture we will see that again. However, by lining up these later-season varieties we may have to sacrifice some yield but at least we will have something.

“And with commodity prices the way they are, pretty well an average crop of anything will make money. Even under poorer conditions we should be able to achieve an average crop and the potential is there for it to be better than average.”

LeeHartisafieldeditorforGrainewsat 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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