Average crop yields and widespread insect issues seen in 2020

FINAL REPORT: Manitoba Agriculture Crop Report Summary for 2020

Southwest Region

A wet fall in 2019 meant unharvested crops from the previous year had to be dealt with this spring. A large number of canola swathes were left in the field, together with severely lodged flax. Much of the remaining flax was burnt. Starting weather conditions for seeding were optimum in the Southwest region this spring. Surface soil moisture was also ideal, allowing good germination for most crops. Occasional rainfall delays stopped seeding, but overall progress was good without any major issues. A late frost the first week of June had some negative effects on germinating canola, but damage was not wide spread in Southwestern Manitoba.

Overall, spring moisture accumulation was normal to below normal depending on the area. Total rainfall since May 1 ranged from 158mm at Minto to 394mm at Newdale. Areas around Bede, Killarney, Ninette, Melita and Minto received less than 60% of their normal rainfall this year. Other districts had closer to normal or well above normal. Most of this rain came in scattered showers, with the exception of two major storms. Surprising yields resulted with such little rainfall in southern parts of the region. Many attributed yields to no- till practices and the power of surface residues to keep moisture in the ground.

One main event of rainfall occurred over Brandon and surrounding areas to the north and east during the last week of June, which brought more than 200mm of rain in just four to five hours. This storm resulted in excess moisture stress to crops and strained local dams and infrastructure as well. Canola was seemingly the worst affected crop in the local area, with noticeable drowned out spots and reduced yields.

Earlier fall frosts were another event this year in the Southwest region. Sub-zero temperatures for several nights in the first week of September hit hard on the longer season soybeans, corn and sunflowers. Most of soybean crop was at R6 to R6.5 growth stage and had some yield and quality damage by frost. Corn and sunflower were also affected but was less noticeable. Spring fertilizer and other field operations were smooth most of the time as majority of the producers put their fertilizer down in the spring due to wet conditions in last fall. Herbicide applications were little bit challenging this year due to persistent windy conditions. Herbicide resistant wild oat and kochia problems are becoming a bigger issue in the Southwest.

Going into fall, the soil moisture rating for most of the region is adequate however; recent dry conditions have made it difficult for fall fertilizer incorporation.

Fungicide application during the growing season was widespread in the Southwest. Most of the cereal crops received an application however; some of the later seeded cereals did not, mainly because producers thought yields would be down in those crops. About 60% of the canola crop received a fungicide application. Drier conditions at application time had some producers reducing acres sprayed. Good harvest conditions this fall with long stretches of dry weather helped producers get the crop in. Producers took advantage of the good weather and started earlier and dried or aerated crop until it was dry in the field. The fall frost we received did not do as much damage to grain quality as was expected.

Yields across the board are good with most crops reporting average to slightly above average yields with good quality. Peas were excellent again this year in the Southwest. Some areas had moisture stress in the peas fields after those big rains but root rot diseases were limited to low spots and did not affect on yield significantly. Overall, average pea yields were 40 to 45 bu/acre and quality was good to excellent.

Winter wheat and fall rye have reduced acreage in the region this year. Early moisture and cold stress in the previous fall, followed by some winterkill and other circumstances added up in the low yields of these crops. Although quality was good as there was not much FHB pressure this year.

Spring Wheat was good crop in the southwest region this year. 55- 65bu/acre yield with 13-14% protein in general. Some varieties did poor but majority of the varieties were excellent in germination and yield. Not much disease pressure, but most of the crop got fungicide application due to high risk of FHB during flowering period.

Barley crops saw average yields and good quality, with some staining from fields in swath. Oat crops had average yields; some areas had tough, green straw delaying harvest, and had wind shatter out grain in some standing fields.

The canola crop was variable this year. Frost, flea beetles, cutworms and then excess moisture and diseases in some cases, put pressure on overall canola yield and quality. Some wind loss to the canola swaths and pods in straight cut varieties as well. Dry weather conditions in some areas also affected the yield. Yields ranged from 30 to 50 bu/acre on average. Overall canola quality graded 1 or 2 Canada. A few limited reports of green seed as well due to fall frost on late or reseeded canola.

Flax crops had average yields, typically around 25 bu/ac and good quality seed. No harvest issues in flax this year, compared to 2019.

Soybeans were looking promising early in the season due to some timely rains and good seedbed moisture. Not much iron-deficiency chlorosis (IDC) or other disease pressure this year. Yield potential was high before hitting the early fall frost. Average yield this year is 35 to 45 bu/acre in the region. Quality was surprisingly good, even after the September frost. Majority of the crop was harvested at optimum moisture level.

Corn yields are average to slightly below average, however moisture values of grain were near dry, saving drying and handling costs significantly. Sunflower harvest has just started and crops appear in great condition, with above average yields expected.

With the open fall so far and harvest being done early producers have been able to get a fair amount of fall work done. Lots of surface drainage and land reclamation being done. Many producers have been applying fertilizer and pre- emergent herbicide for 2021. With the recent cold and dry conditions, fertilizing has slowed significantly over the past few days.

Crop futures prices have firmed up in recent weeks, leading to a cautiously optimistic outlook for next year, leading to similar planting intentions for next year.

Hay and pasture yields for the Southwest was average to above average. Reported hay yields were average to above average and good quality. Several producers taking more than one cut. Silage yields are average to above average in most areas. Therefore, most cattle farmers are going into fall and winter with good supplies and some producers are selling feed. The pasture situation was good for the majority of the summer however, over the last month it is showing the effects of dry conditions and over grazing. Some producers have started to feed cattle on fall grazing pastures.

Northwest Region

The 2020 growing season was a challenge through most of the region, largely due to extended periods of spring insect pressure, strong winds, lack of precipitation, and dry soils post seeding. These crop impacts caused multiple reseeding efforts around Swan River and Roblin. The challenge at The Pas was good crop emergence and then ongoing heavy rains drowning crop in low-lying areas and challenges with timely herbicide operations.

Seeding was well underway by the second week of May and generally complete by the 26th of May. Spring seeding conditions were good in the Northwest region with early seeded cereals and canola emerging well. However, timely rains were a problem and dry soils affected a major portion of the region. These dry soils along with several severe wind events caused emerged crops to be sheared off, wind blasted, twisted, seed blown away and some parts of fields covered with excessive soil. Earlier seeded canola was able to take advantage of soil moisture but was impacted by frost events, intense, ongoing flea beetle pressure and later, the same dry soil conditions. Some fields were reseeded, sometimes multiple times, and did not emerge until moisture conditions were adequate. While cereals did recover better, the reseeded and later emerging canola fields were patchy and stagey and they did not fully recover from the spring conditions. Wind events continued and these strong winds caused significant problems with timely pesticide application.

There were hailstorms this season around Roblin and Swan River at various times during the summer with damage ranging from minimal to significant. Issues with germination, emergence, frost, insects and dry soil conditions became visible and caused staginess in the crop. This variety of staging became a challenge for harvest. Hot temperatures and winds during flowering caused aborted flowers on canola flowering during this period. As well, the later seeded canola was impacted by frost events leading to green seed issues and downgrading.

As far as insects in the region in 2020, flea beetles continue to be an issue and with the dry conditions, pressure continued well in to June. Canola that did emerge had to be sprayed several times to protect it until it reached a stage to withstand the feeding pressure. Cutworm feeding also contributed to many reseeded crops. Grasshoppers were a concern in some areas of the region as well.

The variable moisture caused rapid changes to the fusarium risk map for the region however; varied growth stages and windy conditions caused challenges for timely application of fungicides. Sclerotinia was not significant this season due to dry conditions (but was present). Blackleg and verticillium seemed to set in later in the season and caused lodging. Disease impacts were variable with some fields very affected, while some others saw no impacts at all.

The 2020 harvest is generally complete in the Northwest region. The season was a challenging one with wet conditions in the northern part of the region, dry soils, several wind events, insect pressure and lack of timely precipitation through most of the region.

Field pea harvest operations are complete with yields averaging 50 to 90 bu/ac and grading 2 CAN in the Swan River and Roblin areas.

The red spring wheat harvest is complete in the region with average yields for CWRS class wheat at 60 to 90 bu/acre. Grades range, with 70% of the crop grading No 1 CW, 25% grading No 2 CW and the remainder grading lower. There are some reports of low protein levels. Spring Wheat is grading better in the southern part of the region.

Oats yielded 110 to 130 bu/acre and 80% are grading 2 CW with the remainder grading 3 CW. Barley yields averaged 85 bu/acre and are grading 2 CW.

The canola harvest is virtually complete with approximately 99% of the acres combined. Canola yields averaged 40 to 60 bu/ac. The quality of canola harvested is standard for the region with 90 to 95% of the crop grading 1 CAN and the balance 2 CAN.

Soybeans are harvested with yields averaging 35 to 40 bu/ac; 100% of the crop is grading 2 CAN.

With some exceptions, currently soil moisture conditions are rated as dry. These dry soil moisture conditions have limited fall tillage operation due to concerns of soil erosion. Some anhydrous (and dry fertilizer) has been applied, though less anhydrous ammonia applied to due concern for loss.

Hay production across the Northwest region varied yielding 33% of average to average depending on moisture received, management and age of stand. Producers short on hay are exploring options to makeup up the shortfall including feeding straw in early and mid gestation. Straw and feed grain supplies are adequate. Greenfeed and annual cereal silage crops performed well yielding average to above average. Corn silage yields ranged from below average to above average with varying amounts of moisture received and differences in seeding dates.

The early September frost also affected yield with leaf loss and reduced cob development. Pasture conditions deteriorated after the September frosts thus requiring supplemental feed or herds being moved to extended grazing sites earlier than normal. Dugouts are low, particularly in the Ethelbert, Rorketon and Eddystone areas where some have dried up. In addition, in the Swan River area, there is fear that the surface wells and dugouts will not be able to sustain herds over the winter. Little to no rainfall in late summer and fall has created dry conditions and producers are concerned for next season’s forage growth and water supplies.

Central Region

Last fall, much of the region reported wet soil conditions resulting from abundant early fall precipitation. Little fall tillage and fertilization took place leaving crop residue cover untouched going into the winter. Snow accumulation was moderate but spring melt was slow and delayed due to cold April temperatures. The snow cover was slow to disappear combined with a lack of early spring precipitation providing little spring runoff that normally helps to recharge surface water sources and some topsoil moisture.

A number of fields remained unharvested in fall 2019 due to the wet conditions and had to be harvested or destroyed before seeding could be done on those fields. Some crops overwintered well, and were harvested with reasonable quality and market value, others were destroyed by fire. Start of spring seeding was delayed until early to mid-May due to the wet conditions and lack of fall tillage that maintained crop residue levels high slowing warming and drying of topsoil. Fertilization and field preparation needed before seeding in many cases added to the pressure of seeding in a timely manner. The lack of precipitation in May and to early June allowed gradual drying of topsoil and seeding operations to progress relatively well.

Minimal pre-seed burn off was done as farmers focused on finishing harvest, fertilization and seeding. Pastures and hay fields were slow to recover due to cold and wet soils but recovered well given the abundant soil moisture.

Winter cereal survival was good, having established well in fall with the abundant moisture and good snow cover early that persisted well until spring. The lack of early spring moisture was somewhat detrimental to the early growth of winter cereals.

Herbicide applications were challenging this year. Weed growth was generally normal this season with effective herbicide activity and good weed control. Variable wind conditions complicated and delayed timely applications for many. Hail events were fewer than normal this season, localized as usual and the severity generally low to moderate.

Mid-season severe rainstorms hit southeastern parts of the region, causing runoff and standing water in fields. Otherwise, much of the region received lower than normal rainfall during the growing season, with Bagot reporting as low as 50% of normal from May 1st to October 19th. Morris received the highest amount of normal precipitation from May 1st to date, at 95%. The season started cool but warmed gradually resulting in slightly above normal heat units received during the season. Good subsoil moisture combined with moderate rainfall and somewhat timely rainfall events at appropriate crop stages carried the annual crops relatively well. Perennial forage stands including hay and pastures performed better than the previous three seasons given the subsoil moisture available.

The harvest season was dry throughout resulting in very good harvest conditions. Frost hit early on September 7 and 8 on the western side of the region causing still immature plant tissue burn to later maturing crops like field beans, soybeans and corn. Some later planted cereals and canola suffered frost damage. Frost hit again mid- September affecting the whole region but more severely the eastern portion of the region, which had not suffered much from the first frost.

Harvest of winter cereals and spring wheat started in early August as usual. Winter cereal acres did well, with winter wheat ranging from 50 to 80 bu/ac, open-pollinated rye averaging 65 to 75 bu/ac, and fall/hybrid rye ranging from 75 to 95 bu/ac, averaging 85 bu/acre. Test weights were good, as were falling numbers for rye. Ergot levels in rye varied but tended to be higher than in recent seasons. Quality was good, with low FDK and vomitoxin levels.

Barley yields ranged from 80 to 120 bu/ac, with the majority averaging 85 to 90 bu/acre. Quality is very good. Many barley growers made malt quality this year.

Oat yields vary widely from 80 to 170 bu/acre, averaging 105 to 120 bu. Quality was good but some higher thin levels reported in early harvested oats, many good bushel weight reports. Most graded at the highest designation.

Spring wheat yields ranged from 50 to 90 bu/ac, with most reporting 65 to 75 bu/acre average. Most CWRS graded 1 CW, with protein at 13 to 15%. CNHR grades are good, with most reporting a top grade. Protein was reported as 12 to 14%. CPS wheats were also of good quality, with proteins somewhat higher than CNHR, and yields somewhat lower. Fusarium was minimal, with FDK/vomitoxin levels below 0.5 ppm.

Canola yields were average as was quality. Some later planted canola fields west of the escarpment suffered frost injury. Relatively few fields were reseeded due to early season flea beetle pressure. Cutworms were an issue in a number of fields requiring control treatments. Blackleg was noted in many fields but not considered significantly impact yield this year. Sclerotinia was present in some fields but at low levels given the predominantly low precipitation conditions. Yields reported ranged from 35 to 60 bu/ac, averaging 40 to 45 bu/acre. Quality is very good with the majority of the crop grading 1 CAN.

There were few acres of flax in the region again this year but harvested quality is very good. Reported flax yields are good ranging from 30 to 45 bu/acre.

Field pea acreage was higher than last year. Harvested peas yielded very well in the 60 to 80 bu/ac range with good harvest quality.

Soybean fields that were hit by the early frost in the western part of the region were fortunately mature enough to not suffer seed quality at harvest. Fields in the eastern part of the region did not suffer frost damage being more advanced in maturity at the time of the second frost. Yields range from 30 to 50 bu/ac, averaging around 40 bu/acre. Grain quality is good. Soybean aphids were not a factor this year. Minimal white mould reported. Iron chlorosis was noted but affected fields recovered well.

Edible bean harvested yields are considered above average at 1800 to 2200 lbs/acre. Overall quality is good except for some later planted fields west of the escarpment that suffered from the first frost and were considered write offs.

Sunflower harvest is near the end with 85 to 90 % complete. Early yield reports to date range from 2300 lbs/acre for confectionary sunflowers and 2600 to 3200 lbs/acre for oil sunflowers. Quality is very good.

Grain corn harvest continues; with the region 70 to 80% complete. The early frosts in September terminated some later development and helped with drying down. Reported yields range from 120 to 160 bu/ac, with average yields to date in the 125 to 140 bushel range. Moisture levels are in the 16 to 20% range as of October 20, well below last year at this time.

Potato harvest is done. Harvesting conditions were very good this fall with reported yields in the near average range of 300 to 350 cwt/acre. No late blight was reported in Manitoba this season. Early blight was noted in all regions at minor levels for over 3 to 4 weeks, on early maturing varieties. Many fields, especially in the western part of the province reported borer injury in stems. Bacterial stem rot associated with stem borer injury and white mould in moist under- canopy was prevalent in some fields. Impact of disease in most crops was low due to the dryer than normal growing conditions.

Insect issues were varied with flea beetles causing establishment problems in canola and forced reseeding in some cases. Cutworms were also a contributor to establishment issues and reseeding of crops. Grasshopper populations were notable this year in annual and forage crops. In-season insecticide applications were made to whole fields for grasshoppers control mostly in the Red River Valley. European corn borer were not reported as an issue. Low trapping counts for diamondback moth and bertha armyworm resulted in low population levels and no control reported. Cereal armyworm were noted in the region and some rye fields required control treatments to prevent economic damage.

Harvest progress continued this week for the remaining corn and sunflower acres still standing. Rain on Thursday in the southern part of the region interrupted harvest for a few days there; otherwise, dry weather continued allowing harvest. Day and nighttime temperatures are cold and below normal. Temperatures hovered slightly above zero during the day and minus single digits at night. Frosts helped with dry down of standing corn and sunflowers. Late-season fieldwork and fertilizer applications have progressed slowly having predominantly dry topsoil conditions.

Soil testing continues; results indicate low to moderate residual nitrogen remain. Manure applications progressed well this fall but fall tillage and fertilizing are delayed where topsoil is very dry and difficult to cultivate. Topsoil conditions are dry for most of the region. The southern portion of the region received a welcome 10 to 15 mm in mid-October and more would be welcome to facilitate fieldwork and fertilizer applications.

Post-harvest weed and volunteer grain growth was next to none due to the lack of precipitation and dry topsoil conditions. The percentage of crop residue burning was quite low this year. Demand for straw continues to be strong, and much straw has been baled, of all crop types. Excellent straw choppers and chaff spreaders have improved the ease of returning crop residue to the soil.

Winter cereals seeded acres are reportedly down due to the dry post- harvest conditions. For those who planted winter cereals, topsoil moisture conditions were not favourable for crop emergence and establishment is poor.

The fall roundup continues on Manitoba’s community pastures. Calves are being weaned/marketed with most scheduled to be out by the end of October. Manure is being hauled out of corrals and applied to fields. Producers are feed testing winter-feed supplies including nitrates in green feed or crop regrowth intended for grazing. Corn silage harvest is mostly complete and yields range from below to above average, depending on rainfall. Most yields have been average except where they were hurt by the early frost.

Dugout water sources on pasture are now starting to freeze up. Cattle are being supplemented on pasture and are being brought home for the winter. The grazing of stockpiled grass will continue through October where grass is sufficient. Cattle are being moved off perennial summer pastures are grazing stubble and second cut on hayfields to extend the grazing season.

Eastern Region

The 2020 growing season started with the challenge of dealing with unfinished fieldwork that was carried over from the wet fall of 2019. The amount of land that had not received any fall tillage or fertilization stood out as the most in recent memory. Unharvested canola and cereal swaths as well as some unharvested soybean, corn and sunflower fields also had to be dealt with. Along with a lot of tillage, an increased amount of stubble and stover burning occurred as producers struggled with heavy residue cover on some fields. Seeding began in late April and became general over the first two weeks of May. In spite of the challenges producers faced at the start of the growing season, seeding proceeded rapidly under favourable weather condition and all crops were sown in a timely manner.

By late May, the lack of rainfall over the previous weeks started to become a concern for growers. While the weather conditions had allowed for good seeding progress, the lack of rainfall had resulted in uneven emergence for shallow seeded crops like canola and even for deeper seeded crops that had to be seeded into dry seedbeds. Pre- plant applied herbicides performed poorly this spring, and attributed to lack of rainfall and weed germination. In crop herbicide and spring pre-emergent applications in late-season crops were delayed due to a lack of weed emergence. By the first days of June, seeding was virtually complete in the Eastern Region. On June 1st, frost occurred across many parts of the region with lows ranging from -1°C to -5°C with durations below 0°C being as long as seven hours in some areas. The resulting damage was greatest in canola with a limited amount of damage in soybeans. Reseeding began within a week after the frost with thousands of acres of canola involved, particularly in northern districts and the frost stood out as one of the most damaging that had occurred over the decade.

Weed emergence remained uneven due to a continued lack of sufficient rainfall. Insecticide applications became necessary at this time to control cutworms in cereals and sunflowers and especially flea beetles in canola, which was struggling to recover. The weekend of July 6th to 8th brought rainfall, but while accumulations in northern and central districts ranged from 10 to 25 mm, southern districts received 40 to 250 mm as part of severe storms. The RMs of Piney, Emerson-Franklin and Stuartburn were the most adversely affected with the RM of Stuartburn declaring a state of emergency. In these areas, overland flooding and ponding of water washed out roads, fields and pastures. As a result, fields unseeded at the time of the storms remained unseeded, emerged crops were drowned out and forage producers lost their first cut due to flooded hayfields and had to deal with a lack of accessible pasture for their grazing cattle.

Adversely affected areas suffered setbacks for the rest of the growing season and did not regain an appreciable amount of their productivity.

The rest of June was characterized primarily by continued rainfall accumulations that were highly variable across the region given that they most often occurred as isolated thunderstorms. Although weed emergence continued to increase prompting action on the part of growers, windy conditions made herbicide applications a challenge, and locally saturated fields limited access, with crops often growing past correct staging.

Insect concerns arose in late June, continuing throughout the rest of the growing season. Grasshoppers were a nuisance pest in many cereal and forage seed fields, as well as pastures. Fungicide applications in spring wheat, canola and peas occurred on most crops in July. At this time, insecticide applications to control grasshoppers and cereal armyworms were steadily increasing. However, scouting on a field-by-field basis was found to be necessary as pest levels varied widely across fields. Armyworm damage to forage seed fields was particularly severe during this time. By mid July, most fungicide applications were completed. However, the increased amount of reseeded canola did mean that some applications did continue later than normal.

Many canola crops abruptly stopped flowering in the third week of July as overnight temperatures remained warm and soils continued to dry. Producers and agronomists expressed concern over canola yield potential given the rough ride much of the crop was having in 2020. By the very end of July, winter wheat stands were receiving pre-harvest herbicide applications and some oats fields were noted as turning prematurely because of the warm temperatures.

Harvest of grass seed crops began in the first week of August with winter cereals following soon after. By mid August, limited harvesting of spring cereals had begun while grass seed and winter cereal harvest were wrapping up. Some August rains arrived too late to benefit yields in spring wheat and canola, though corn, soybeans and sunflowers did benefit. Field peas and winter cereals were harvested by this time, with winter wheat yielding about 70 bu/ac, and peas averaged 65 bu/acre.

Spring cereal harvest was almost complete by mid-September, with wheat yields averaging 65 bu/ac with over half of the crop grading 1 CW , and over 30% grading 2 CW . Bleaching and protein levels were factors in downgrading, though overall quality was good. Oats averaged 120 bu/ac, all grading 2 CW . T est weight in oats varied field-to-field, though still generally good.

Canola yields averaged 35 bu/ac, all with good quality. The lower than average canola yields disappointed many producers, and may affect planting intentions for 2021. Seeding of fall cereals was also complete by late September, with growers putting in about 25% less winter wheat acres while increased fall rye acres by about 30%, albeit on limited acres. Of note were killing frosts experienced across the region during September 17th and 18th when temperatures in some areas fell below -5°C and sub-zero temperature duration lasted for up to nine hours. At that time, the greatest concern was the effect on corn test weight given the growth stage of the crop. Some issues with green seeds persisting in otherwise dry soybeans at harvest was also attributed to this frost event. Desiccation of sunflowers was completed by September 25th and fall fieldwork proceeded rapidly and keeping up pace with harvest progress. Canola harvest was virtually complete by the first week of October while soybean harvest was about half done and corn and sunflower harvesting was beginning. Soybean harvest was completed by mid October with sunflower harvest finishing a week later. Overall, producers were very satisfied with the pace of the harvest season and with the amount of fall field preparation they were able to get done.

Soybean crops were harvested with good quality, all grading 2 CW . Average yields were about 45 bu/acre. Grain corn has been typically grading 3 CW, and averaging 130 bu/acre. Corn bushel weights remain the primary concern regarding quality and have ranged from below 52 lbs to 56 lbs with a lot of the crop coming in at 52 to 55 lbs. Sunflowers have been performing well, with many crops yielding higher than average, for a regional average of around 3000 lbs/ac and good quality overall.

Over the last week, producers continued to make good progress on harvesting and field work across most of the region. Rainfall accumulations varied from trace amounts to as much as 16 mm with the highest accumulations occurring in some southern districts during the middle of last week. Temperatures ranged from seasonal to below seasonal, which aided with harvest progress. Corn harvest was about 75% complete with grain moistures ranging from 19 to about 23%. Corn growers without grain dryers and those relying on custom drying made the least progress and were hoping for continued crop dry down over the coming week to facilitate further harvest progress. Sunflower harvest was at least 95% complete with any remaining fields being harvested in the coming days if weather allows. Much better progress on fieldwork was made this fall compared to last year with most harvested fields having been worked and many receiving a second tillage pass if deemed necessary. Fall fertilizer applications are ongoing but many producers have completed or are close to completing their fieldwork.

Across the region, overall feed harvest was very close to complete. For second cut beef hay, cutting had stopped but progress was made with baling as producers continued to chip away at remaining swaths of hay still out there. Yields continued to range from 50% below average to average with reasonably good quality. Pasture conditions continued to deteriorate. In response, calves continued to be shipped to market. Feeding on pasture was becoming widespread. Hauling of baled straw was complete. A few producers were starting to bale up corn stover as the grain corn harvest moved along but there appeared to be less of this going on this year compared to previous years. Producers were taking advantage of field conditions to catch up on hauling/spreading manure and cleaning up feedlot/overwintering facilities.

Overall winter feed supplies were estimated to be adequate given that, after three years of dry conditions and lower forage productivity, producers had been proactive in preparing for the situation.

Interlake Region

Spring seeding started slowly for most, following last year’s wet fall, cold conditions through April and a slow gradual melt. Snowfall over winter was lower than normal, and spring runoff was reduced. Most unharvested crop was taken off by early May. Cultivation to deal with ruts from last fall’s wet harvest conditions was necessary in some areas, prior to seeding. Some cultivation in order to get onto fields earlier. Heavier soils were dry on top, but mucky underneath. Southern areas were able to start before the rest of the region. Field conditions were extremely variable, with some still picking and choosing fields in late May, due to wet soils. Areas north started the season with dry conditions.

Perennial grass seed crops, along with winter cereals, suffered winterkill injury. Minimal pre-seed burnoff occurred, as there was little weed growth at the appropriate staging. There was little if any early weed issues with the cold and dry conditions. Blowing soils caused some crop injury, and erosion was evident.

Peas and cereals went in to moisture, germinated and emerged well. Stands were much improved as compared to last year. Some early seeded crop was mucked in when conditions were too wet. Some later seeded crops were stranded in dry soils. Both situations needed rain, to allow roots to extend to the soil moisture beneath. Some crop was seeded deep to moisture, delaying emergence. Germination in canola was patchy. Stagey emergence occurred due to cold weather and dry seedbeds, with limited precipitation following seeding operations. Additional canola stresses included late May and early June frost, wind, crusting, and high flea beetle pressure. Some reseeding was necessary, mostly canola acres, especially following the late May and early June frosts. Some fields were reseeded twice. Perennial crops, hay and pasture were slow to break dormancy and green up. The June frosts were hard on alfalfa stands, and injury to hay crops was greater than first expected. Frosts also affected seed set in fall rye and perennial forage seed crops, affecting yield.

Strong winds continued through the spring and hampered timely in-crop herbicide application operations, and later, fungicide applications. Scattered thundershowers added to the challenges. Weed control was generally decent. Some poorer control was seen as a result of having to spray in less than ideal conditions, to avoid the continual high winds. Rain showers allowed for some later germinating weeds; as crops stands were often thinner and shorter, weeds had better light conditions than in a typical year.

Iron deficiency chlorosis was present in soybean fields, but at lower levels than last year. The crop grew out of the symptoms relatively quickly.

The weather turned hot following the June frost, and mid June rain helped to even out crop stands. Germination was more uneven where spring tillage was done. The hot weather and high humidity in late June and through July allowed for tremendous growth in soybeans and corn, making up for a slow start. Most cereals and field peas harvested early. Moisture stress was common throughout the region. Rainfall was inadequate for the most part, particularly in areas with lighter textured soils, and premature ripening of crops was common. Most crops were short and many fields were thinner than normal. A few areas in the south part of the region received more consistent rainfall – in some cases, excess amounts. Most of the region remained very dry through the season, with scattered rains making the difference for crops. The entire region received below average rainfall, with a few small areas seeing heavy rains in June and July.

As expected, crop yields were somewhat lower on average due to lack of precipitation, but were extremely variable. Yields were surprisingly good in many cases, given poor looking stands, as well as considering the challenges of the season. The best yields were due to a combination of timely rains and heavier soils, although consistent heavy dews seems to have helped some later maturing crop. Harvest progressed very well. Peas, winter wheat and fall rye started to come off late July/early August, and harvest was in full swing by late August. Producers were more aggressive on combining, remembering last year’s poor conditions. Some early crop was taken off at higher moisture as a result. Humidity finally dropped, and along with good winds, moistures dropped dramatically, improving harvest conditions, especially after some curing rain.

Winter wheat yielded in the 65 bu/ac, following significant stresses last fall and this spring. Fall rye came off in the 60 to 100 bu/ac range, better than expected. Field peas ranged from 60 to 65 bu/ac, with excellent quality.

Forage grass seed yields are reported as below average, from 100 to 400 lbs/ac. The poorest stands were cut for hay.

Most of the spring wheat graded 1 CW, with up to 40% grading 2 CW and the rest downgraded to 3 CW. Quality was generally good, with lower grades following rain events. Proteins were somewhat lower than 2019, averaging 13.5%. Yields ranged from 15 to 100 bu/ac, averaging 55 to 65 bu/acre. Barley ranged from 60 to 110 bu/acre, averaging in the 90 bu/ac range, grading 1 CW, with good weight and low vomitoxin. Oats ranged from 50 to 160 bu/ac, averaged 90 to 110 bu/acre. Weights varied through harvest, reflecting in season rainfall amounts. Fewer thins than expected. Downgrading was due to mildew, and rain/high humidity.

Canola yields ranged from 25 to 60 bu/ac, averaging 35 to 40 bu/ac with essentially all graded 1 CAN. The move to straight cut harvest and pod shatter resistant varieties allowed stagey crops to stand and ripen, for fewer harvest losses. Swathed fields did suffer losses from wind and hail damage. Some seed is slightly smaller, which may influence average yield.

Pea yields ranged from 45 to 85 bu/acre, averaging 60 to 65 bu/ac, with excellent quality. Flax yields reported better than last year, ranging from 20 to 45 bu/ac, very good quality. Lower yields may be due to pasmo.

Rains came towards the end of August, too late for grain fill in earlier maturing soybean varieties, but did aid some of the later maturing ones. Seed size is average to slightly smaller. Some slightly green beans due to aggressive harvesting, but no issues after going in the bin. Greens due to frost injury account for some downgrading. Yields range from 15 to 60 bu/acre, averaging 35 to 40 bu/ac, and the majority of the crop is grading 2 CAN.

Most of the alfalfa seed crop has been harvested, with average yield in the 300 to 600 lbs/ac range, prior to cleaning.

Grain corn harvest continues, now over 70% complete, with a number of producers finished. Yields reported to date range from 80 to 160 bu/ac. Average yield for the region forecasted to be 120 to 140 bu/ac. Harvest progress has been good. Many producers report borderline dry grain, with only a quick run through the dryer necessary. Weights are good and no quality issues at this point. Sufficient storage will be a problem for some. Sunflower harvest also continues, and is as much as 75% complete.

Yields range from 1800 to close to 4000 lbs/ac for oilseed varieties, average is expected to be in the 2500 to 3500 lb range. Quality is good. Confection varieties are also yielding well, with average expected to be in the 2000 to 2500 lb/ac range.

Impact of disease on crops was lower than normal, a consequence of drier conditions. Fungicide applications were made to most wheat, and some oats and barley. Fewer canola fields were sprayed than normal, due to dry conditions, and thinner, short stands.

Impact of insect injury on crops was much higher than normal. Cold dry soils delayed canola emergence and slowed growth, making the crop susceptible to flea beetle injury. Headlands were sprayed more than once in many cases, and entire fields were sprayed. Some canola was reseeded due to multiple stresses of cold soils/poor emergence, flea beetles, cutworms and frost. Cutworms were a problem in several crops. Armyworms caused significant damage in a number of fields including perennial ryegrass, fescue and timothy, spring cereals and hayfields. Grasshoppers also caused significant problems for many producers. Headlands were sprayed more than once, and entire crops were sprayed, sometimes more than once. All crops were affected, including hay and pastures. Grasshopper injury continued through much of the season. Producers are concerned that insects may continue to be a problem next season. Significant numbers of beneficial predator insects were evident in fields.

Increased winter cereal acres were seeded this fall, following early harvest. Good germination and emergence was evident in the first seeded fields.

Successful establishment for under- seeded forages has been variable, due to significant stresses – dry soils, small seed, and insect feeding. In areas of better rainfall, some stands are reported in excellent condition.

Next year’s seeding intentions will firm up over winter, taking in to consideration the dry conditions, potential for insect pests, rotation needs and crop prices.

Fall 2020 harvest has been an easy one, as compared to last year. Much of the 2020 harvest is complete, with grain corn and sunflowers left to finish. Fertilizer application continues, although the extended cold snap and dry conditions will start to limit field operations. Winds are a constraint for broadcast applications, as they have been for many field operations over the season. Broadcast applications of fertilizer and pre- emergent herbicide are being made when conditions allow. Most intended tillage operations are complete. Dry conditions along with compacted areas have caused some producers to stop further tillage or anhydrous ammonia application, due to hard pulling and broken shanks. Producers have had time to undertake field drainage operations. Many are planning for dry conditions continuing, and will direct seed in spring to preserve moisture.

Pasture regrowth was slow due to dry and cold conditions, and has been significantly impacted by dry conditions for much of the last two or three years. Supplemental feeding of cattle was required in spring until pasture growth was adequate. Pastures are rated fair to very poor going into winter. The recent cold snap has seen cattle being fed on pastures, or brought home earlier than some years.

Hay yields were again lower than average, although better than in 2019. Fertilized fields fared better. Cool, dry conditions in spring prevented a quick regrowth, and lack of summer rains resulted in further crop stunting. Poor growth due to little or no regrowth following second cut is causing concern about winterkill and forage supplies next year. Isolated areas with good and timely rainfall had excellent alfalfa and grass hay yields.

Producers have tried different greenfeed mixes, including oats, millet, pea and wheat. Yields have been good. Annual crop silage and greenfeed will supplement hay supplies, and have taken the pressure off feed supply concerns. Silage corn yields are reported at 9 to 20 tonnes/ac, with average yields higher than expected. Forage shortages are expected, but supplies for most are better than last year. Hay prices are more reasonable as a result, for those who need to purchase feed. Straw was baled immediately following cereal harvest; yield is better than recent years. Pea residue and corn stover have also been baled. Many report adequate supplies for winter, and do not need to purchase additional supplies. Native hay yields have been poor in most areas; sloughs are dry. Dugouts are low to almost dry, as there has been minimal rainfall for some time.

About the author



Stories from our other publications