On average, 2020 presented a pretty decent growing season, with decent yields and decent grain, oilseed and pulse crop quality, all contributing to a general sense of industry optimism, say seed growers across Western Canada.
Region to region it wasn’t perfect — some excessive rains in the central Peace River region and parts of northern Alberta; dry conditions in parts of central Saskatchewan during the summer, but then frequent and annoying showers slowing down harvest this fall; while Manitoba farmers reported a mixed bag of conditions — dry spells followed by some timely rains and yet they still binned some impressive yields.
While certified seed growers always aim to produce the top varieties across a wide range of crops, there are always a few outstanding performers that are likely to become commercial farmers’ favourites in coming years. Here are what these Prairie seed producers, contacted for the November Farmer Panel, say caught their eye during the past growing season.
Prestville Farms, Rycroft, Alta.
With excessive rain across parts of the Peace River region as well as north-central Alberta, Nick Sekulic of Prestville Farms at Rycroft, Alta., says “we had the best-ever record cereal crop yields on one hand, along with record poor pea yields on the other — the peas just got hammered.”
While they grow several varieties of wheat, oats, barley, peas and fava beans, Sekulic says there were a few that seemed to excel this past growing season.
Seed growers in your region are the first to really test drive new varieties under conditions similar to those on your farm.
From FP Genetics, he was impressed with CDC Copper, an exceptionally high-yielding, two-row, malting barley variety, with short straw for good standability, a strong leaf disease package and low grain protein.
Syngenta’s Sirish, a two-row barley, also produced exceptional yields, he says. A European variety, it can’t be grown as a malting barley in Canada, but can produce some top yields for the feed market. It is a high-yielding variety, but has a very short straw for good standability.
And new from Canterra is CS Accelerate, a Canadian Prairie Spring wheat, which was extremely high yielding, outperforming AAC Penhold.
In the oats line, CDC Arborg (FP Genetics) “was just a beautiful-looking crop that produced record oat yields,” says Sekulic.
“A great year for cereals,” he adds, as he wrapped up harvest in the central Peace region. “Excellent yields and everything graded No. 1 or No. 2, with excellent bushel weights. Considering the challenges of the past few harvest seasons, I’m just glad we had good weather and got everything done by October. We had closure on the season, which we haven’t had other years and it just doesn’t feel right to me unless we have closure.”
Stamp Seeds, Enchant, Alta.
Greg Stamp was feeling a bit uncomfortable in early October when asked for the November Farmer Panel how the 2020 crop year had shaped up. “Everything went so well — great yields, great harvest, I’ve got nothing to complain about,” he jokes.
Stamp is part of the family-run certified seed business at Enchant, about an hour north of Lethbridge, producing grains, oilseed, pulses, corn and forage seeds under both irrigated and dryland cropping systems.
A few varieties and crops stood out on the farm this past season.
AAC LeRoy (Alliance Seed) and AAC Wheatland (SeCan) VB (varietal blend) hard red spring wheats both had excellent yield and standability. They are wheat midge-tolerant varieties, which means with the VB component the seed batch also includes 10 per cent of another HWRS variety that is not midge tolerant. The strategy is to use the blended crop to help reduce the risk of the insect pest developing genetic resistance. “And even if you don’t have concerns about wheat midge in your area, they are just excellent, high-yielding hard red spring wheat varieties to grow,” says Stamp.
An excellent feed barley from Alliance Seed, AB Cattlelac is a new, semi-smooth, six-row, awned barley that was ranked No. 1 for forage yield, and also is an excellent grain producer, says Stamp. A win win for livestock producers.
From FP Genetics, AAC Chrome yellow peas had excellent yield, along with excellent standability, says Stamp. Producers need to be aware it has three to six days longer maturity than CDC Meadow and other peas, but “really delivers on yield,” he says.
And among winter cereals, Stamp was really impressed with KWS Propower and KWS Serafino, both hybrid fall rye varieties. Propower is particularly well suited as a forage-type fall rye, excellent for grazing and silage, while Serafino is a high-yielding grain variety with low ergot. Both are well suited to either irrigated or dryland cropping systems.
Wakefield Seeds Ltd., Maidstone, Sask.
While crops were generally good on his northwest Saskatchewan farm, Laurie Wakefield says a hard red spring wheat and an oat variety really impressed him during the 2020 growing season. Wakefield Seeds Ltd. is located near Maidstone about an hour south of Lloydminster.
From SeCan, AAC Wheatland VB hard red spring wheat produced excellent yield. It is a semi-dwarf variety with excellent lodging resistance, good sprouting and disease resistance and good milling characteristics. “It is a wheat midge-tolerant variety carrying the resistance gene, and if it is managed properly in rotation that genetic resistance will serve us a long time,” says Wakefield.
He was also impressed with CDC Arborg white milling oats from FP Genetics. “It is a phenomenal oat with excellent yield, it stood well and very good quality,” he says.
Printz Family Seeds, Gravelbourg, Sask.
In southern Saskatchewan, Kurt Printz was impressed with how well some crops yielded, considering the extremely dry growing season.
Printz, who is part of the family-run seed farm at Gravelbourg located about 120 kilometres south of Moose Jaw, grows chickpeas, lentils, canola, barley, durum and spring wheat. Newer varieties that appeared to do quite well under very dry growing conditions included the following types.
From FP Genetics, CDC Alloy durum yielded very well despite the conditions and also produced good quality and good bushel weight wheat.
And from Alliance Seed, Printz was also impressed with AAC Leroy VB, a new hard red spring wheat that yielded very well — even better than durum under dry conditions. “I knew AAC Leroy grew quite well under wet conditions,” he says. “And after this year, I also know it does very well under extreme drought conditions.”
Among pulse crops, he was impressed with two new kabuli chickpea varieties, CDC Lancer and CDC Orkney, both imi-tolerant varieties, so herbicides such as Solo (imazamox) become another weed control option.
“Everything needs some rain,” says Printz. “But both had improved yield and improved disease resistance, and it is good to have more herbicide options.”
Southern Seeds Ltd., Minto, Man.
Much like Nick Sekulic in northern Alberta and Laurie Wakefield in northwest Saskatchewan, Andrew Ayre of southern Manitoba was also duly impressed with CDC Arborg oats.
Among the wide range of crops he grew at the Southern Seed Ltd. farm at Minto, south of Brandon, Ayre says he was really impressed with CDC Arborg oats, especially with limited growing season moisture.
“CDC Arborg really stood out considering we only have about six inches of rainfall,” says Ayre, who was just finishing combining during the early-October interview for the Farmer Panel.
“It yielded about 150 bushels per acre on this farm, which is pretty good yield for dryland farming,” he says.
Ayre still had to harvest his grain corn, but he heard area reports that yields were a respectable 170 bushels per acre, “which is pretty good considering we had a late spring for planting and then not much moisture,” he says.
Interlake Agri Ltd., Fisher Branch, Man.
While Interlake Agri focuses mainly on multiplying forage seed for leading seed companies in Canada, Adam Gregory, who is part of the multi-generation family business, says he was impressed this year with the performance of AAC Viewfield, a newer hard red spring wheat from FP Genetics.
Farming at Fisher Branch in the northern Interlake region, about two hours north of Winnipeg, Gregory says AAC Viewfield outperformed other wheats, even though it was seeded at a reduced rate and was used as a cover crop.
“We had seeded timothy as a grass seed crop and then cross-seeded that with AAC Viewfield, reducing the normal cereal seeding rate by about 25 per cent,” says Gregory. Viewfield is a semi-dwarf variety with good standability that worked well as a cover crop.
Considering it was generally a fairly dry growing season, and with the reduced seeding rate, “it still had the best yield on the farm,” he says.