Water, Water Almost Everywhere – for Jul. 23, 2010

Talk about disparity. It is truly a feast-or-famine year across Western Canada in terms of how much moisture is out there.

Near Tisdale, Sask., where only about 50 per cent of land ever got seeded this spring, just two-tenths of rain, as of late June, immediately turns fields into lakes. And in Manitoba’s Red River Valley, 95 per cent of fields were seeded once and a good portion of that area was seeded a second time. Crops are struggling under too much moisture, and with hot, humid conditions disease will be a big issue heading into July.

In sharp contrast, the Peace River region, as of late June, was dealing with its third straight year of drought. Much of the seeding was done by late April, and there has been some timely snow and rain but surface moisture is critically low. Some areas are dealing with 25 and 30 C days, canola has bolted, wheat has headed out, and while daytime temperatures make great beach weather — if there was a beach to go to — some areas had frost as late as June 15.

Here is what producers contacted for the Farmer Panel in this mid summer issue ofGrainewshave to say about growing conditions in their area.

RON HECK FAIRVIEW, ALTA.

“Dry, dry, dry,” is how producer Ron Heck in Alberta’s Peace River region describes conditions over much of northwest Alberta and northeastern B. C.’s farming area, as of late June.

Crops are hanging in due to sporadic rainfall, but with hot days and cold nights, it’s not a great outlook, he says. Heck who crops about 6,500 acres of mostly wheat and canola near Fairview, had his crop seeded by late April. All he can do is pray for rain at this point.

“One or two years of drought you can handle, but when you head into your third year, it gets pretty tough,” says Heck. Conditions were dry across the region last fall, there was very little snow last winter, and other than a snowstorm May 20 there hasn’t been much appreciable moisture.

“When it is wet, if you get twotenths of an inch that is a lot of rain, but when it is dry and you get two-tenths it is barely like it even happened,” he says.

As of June 25 the canola on his farm had bolted and the wheat was ready to head out so he figured yield has pretty well been set. With cool conditions after the canola was seeded, Heck says flea beetles were a problem, and now that weed spraying is over he expects lygus bugs may be the next pest to watch for. Some area farmers did have high levels of a wireworm which took out whole fields.

KRIS MAYERLE TISDALE, SASK.

In relative terms, you don’t have to go too far east of the Peace River region to find the exact opposite situation. Kris Mayerle, who along with family members operates KRM Farms Ltd. at Tisdale, says he has never seen so much moisture, and his dad, who has been farming for 47 years, says the last year that was comparable to these conditions was 1954.

Mayerle, who got only about 60 per cent of his farm seeded over a long, wet seeding season this spring, says as of June 25 they had received about 15 inches of rain, and this follows a wet 2009 fall.

“Everything is saturated right now,” he says. “If we even get twotenths of an inch water is running off the field. We got about 11,500 acres seeded but of that we may be lucky to harvest 9,000 acres. I think we will see more acres drowned out, as the forecast keeps calling for more rain.”

Mayerle says while they managed to get some canola seeded under very wet conditions in mid-June, they only had nine real days of seeding this spring. There was a window between May 12 and 22 when they got what crop they could seeded and other than that it has rained or been too wet.

“We figure we were lucky to get 65 per cent seeded,” he says. “Generally this area is considered to be 50 per cent seeded and some producers maybe only got one or two fields seeded.”

Mayerle has some of each of his main crops seeded –canola, peas, wheat, lentils and oats. But he figures that 90 per cent of his pea crop just rotted in the seed row.

“The canola that was seeded early seems to be faring the best of all, and the wheat and the peas seem to be suffering the worst. If we do get a nice warm, dry day it is amazing how quickly the crop seems to perk up.”

He expects with such wet conditions that disease will be a concern for the surviving crop. Mayerle says about all he can do with the land that wasn’t seeded, or where crop has drowned out is treat it as chemfallow for this year.

LOGAN GRANT CHAMBERLAIN, SASK.

Northwest of Regina, Logan Grant says moisture is certainly adequate but not the problem it is in other areas. Grant, who farms near Chamberlain seeded all grains, oilseeds and pulse crops on his 8,000-acre farm by May 22.

“We’ve had about eight or nine inches of rain this spring and I expect about two per cent of our crop may be flooded out,” he says. “The lentils are suffering. They are a bit yellow but generally our crops are looking pretty good.”

Grant had finished in-crop spraying by late June. Canola was just about to flower, although overall crops were a week or two behind. He had to apply a fungicide to the wheat to control tan spot, but so far no other pests posed a threat.

“Crop in the low spots is being stressed and (that’s) where we will see losses,” he says. “But you don’t have to go too far from our farm to find farms hit harder by the weather. Two or three weeks ago I would have said we were looking at excellent crops, but now with this added rainfall, I would say on our farm we are looking at more average yields.

GREG LUNDSTEN EASTEND, SASK.

Greg Lundsten, who crops about 4,000 acres with family members in southwest Saskatchewan, says their farm escaped the heaviest rainfall that brought national media attention to conditions in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“We feel very fortunate right here because we only have some small areas in a few fields that are drowned out, but you don’t have to go too far before it is much worse,” he says. “Overall we’ve had about six inches of rain this spring.”

Lundsten, who also operates a crop consulting service, Hidden Valley Agra and is an Agri-trend coach, seeded durum, yellow peas, chickpeas, green lentils and canola this year. The crops were doing quite well with adequate moisture, but due to the cool conditions were anywhere from 10 to 14 days behind.

While there was certainly excess moisture west toward Shaunavon and in the Swift Current area, farms farther south weren’t complaining. In the Frontier and Climax areas, south towards the U. S. border, rain from the June weather systems was welcome.

JOHN HOFER ELKWATER HUTTERITE COLONY IRVINE, ALTA.

The Elkwater Hutterite Colony got about 85 per cent of it’s southeast Alberta farm seeded before heavy rains shut them down, says John Hofer, farm manager.

Despite the rain the early-seeded crops were looking not too bad, but the colony is left with about 8,000 acres that will have to be chemfallowed this year, he says. “And with the rain we’ve had since seeding, some of our crops will be drowned out,” says Hofer. With some fields in the area it wasn’t just a problem of standing water, there was also considerable erosion and washouts.

“We were fortunate in that we didn’t lose any of our property in this last storm, but other farms nearby were hard hit,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how much insurance you have, it never can replace it all. It is a serious situation because even with unseeded land you have all these inputs that we’ve purchased and the question is ‘what will crop insurance cover?’”

Hofer says he has never seen conditions like they had in June. All the creeks overflowed, roads were washed out, bridges were lost. “Some places these washouts left holes in the road 30 feet deep and 70 feet wide,” he says.

FRED GREIG RESTON, MAN.

Any crop seeded in late April and early May isn’t doing too badly, says Fred Greig who farms in southwest Manitoba. But crops put in after that period haven’t fared as well under excessive moisture.

Greig, who crops about 4,500 acres on his Avondale Seed Farm at Reston, says wet weather prevented him from seeding about four quarters of his farm. All together, either from not seeding or drown-out conditions, he expects 25 per cent of the farm to be out of production this year.

“We’re probably going to have about 1,000 acres with no crop this year,” he says. “Ideally we like to start seeding the last week of April and we did get some of our crop in before the weather turned wet in May. Anything that was more advanced seems to be handling the moisture much better. The Glenn wheat for example, which we seeded early, seems to be doing much better than the Wascada and the Clearfield varieties, which were seeded later. And that’s not so much because one variety is better than another, it has more to do with the age of the stand when conditions got wet.”

Greig says he still has some in-crop weed control to complete, and with crops at least two weeks behind in maturity, he hasn’t even applied fusarium control products on his winter wheat yet.

Recalling very wet conditions in 1999, Greig says they did try chemfallow that year, but if the weather co-operates at all, he would like to seed a cover crop, such as proso millet, this year to control weeds and use up some moisture. If it matures he may harvest some for seed, otherwise it could be cut and sold as greenfeed. He may also time it so some of the unseeded land goes into winter wheat in late August.

STUART MANNESS DOMAIN, MAN.

Stuart Manness says due to a very wet May and June the seeding season on his south-central Manitoba farm ran from April 20 to June 20 this year.

Manness, who farms at Domain in the Red River Valley south of Winnipeg, says like many producers in the area he got 95 per cent of the farm seeded once but has also had to reseed some fields.

“We did have to reseed about a third of the farm, but I know we will have some losses due to the excessive moisture,” he says. “It is hard to say how much, because most of it will be patches here and there. It is not like we will have a whole field where we can seed some type of cover crop. We will have to apply spot weed control on patches that drowned out.”

Manness, who has dealt with these wet conditions “far too often” produces wheat, oats, barley, canola and flax. “Fortunately we use varieties which have been selected for improved disease resistance, but even with that as the season progresses I think we will face some real disease challenges.”

LeeHartisafieldeditorforGrainewsin 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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