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Bringing in the bread

Cereal and canola growers are smiling after pleasantly surprising yields

Cool-season crops once again dodged the drought bullet this year, according to the first harvest reports from Manitoba Agriculture, but soybeans may not be as lucky.

Dry, hot weather has been among the big conversation starters in agro-Manitoba this year.

Despite that, according to farm production adviser Rejean Picard, cool-season crop yields have impressed and he is hopeful about warm-season crops still in the field.

“We’re below normal (rainfall), but not extremely below normal in some parts,” he said.

The rain may not have been much in some areas, but were timely and likely enough when combined with groundwater, Picard said.

Cereals

Cereal yields have been good and free of disease pressures across the province, according to Terry Buss, an extension staffer in the northeast.

Buss says fusarium has been atypically low and spring wheat has run from 50-80 bu./acre. The northeast is historically high risk for the infection. This year, however, there has been little concern.

Other cereals have also shared in the windfall. Oat yields truly impressed, Buss said, with fields averaging 80-130 bu./acre and good quality.

“Cereals are shining this year, which is not always the case for us in terms of quality, in particular,” Buss said. “We can make bushels, but we struggle with quality.”

In the southwest, Manitoba Agriculture reports 50-70 bu./acre wheat, 80-90 bu./acre barley and 100-120 bu./acre oats, although Lionel Kaskiw, Manitoba Agriculture farm production adviser, says that they are expecting frost and rain damage in later-seeded cereals.

Central Manitoba, meanwhile, has been good news for cereals despite the June 14 hailstorm that decimated some soybean fields. Wheat yields have generally hit 70-90 bushels an acre, while barley boasts 80-100 bushels an acre and oats have seen yields of 120-150 bushels an acre, all with good quality.

Yields came in across the map in the Interlake. Wheat ranged from 30-60 bu./acre, according to the Sept. 10 crop report, while oats ran between 40 bu./acre to over 140 bu./acre.

“There were lots of very nice surprises on cereal yields, especially considering how thin the crop looked and then it’s been so much shorter,” Ingrid Kristjanson, Interlake extension specialist, said.

Wheat protein has been generally high with reports between 13 to 16 per cent.

Canola

Manitoba’s main oilseed has been a pleasant surprise for many after a year that started with high flea beetle populations, emergence concerns and moved into flower abortion from heat and some shelling concern from late-season thunderstorms.

Yields have varied anywhere from 35-60 bushels an acre in the northeast, according to Buss, while some producers are now fighting with rain to bring the last of the harvest.

Canola harvest is ongoing in Swan Valley, northwestern Manitoba Agriculture specialist, Nicole Clouson said, but first yields have run from 45-60 bushels an acre, despite some fields actually getting washed out earlier this year or fighting bertha army worm.

“Starting at the May 24 rainfall to the July 8 recording period, Swan Valley saw 232 to 264 millimetres of rain, so this was the majority of the rainfall for the rest of the season,” according to Clouson.

Some fields were also written off after a hailstorm through the August long weekend.

Farmers have been pleasantly surprised in the south. The province has reported yields as high as 70 bushels an acre in central Manitoba, while yields have run between 40-50 bushels an acre in the southwest, although seeds have been smaller than normal.

“When we walked out into fields and we were seeing a lot of pods aborting and flowers aborting and pods not developing, producers were concerned,” Kaskiw said.

Sclerotinia has been non-existent in his region, while blackleg, while similarly present compared to other years, appeared late enough that it may not have hit hard.

Kaskiw still expects to hear about frost damage after the province’s late-August and early-September cold snap.

Things are, again, more variable in the Interlake. While some fields are boasting at or over 50 bu./acre, other fields had fallen to 20 bu./acre.

“There were some excellent yields on the canola as well and even some of the drier-area fields were good,” Kristjanson said. “But in the very driest areas the crop suffered.”

Pulses

Cereals and canola may have enjoyed a “quiet” growing season, but soybeans were less lucky.

Soybean harvest has just begun in the east, although first-reported yields have run from 30-40 bushels an acre.

Fields have fought with moisture stress, salinity, late-season pod shatter from hail and green seed, Buss said. Buss noted that tests have come in up to 40 per cent green seed and many just under 10 per cent, well within the realm for discounts. Still, Buss was modestly optimistic.

“It’s not a bin buster. It’s not like it’s been in the past, but at the same time, I think it’s going to be profitable,” Buss said. “I think we’re in the money.”

Other regions are expecting a harder hit. The first soybeans out of the Interlake have been variable, ranging from 25 to 40 bu./acre. Dry conditions in August and September also stunted pod development in the southwest, Kaskiw said. Pods with only two seeds have been common. Other pods aborted entirely, and Kaskiw estimates that yield may be down to 25 to 30 bu./acre.

“In the past couple of years, we were probably in that 35- to 40-bu./acre range,” he said.

Kaskiw predicts that soybean acres may be down in the region next year.

Peas, meanwhile, were in good standing, according to reports out of the southwest. Peas were the first to come off the field, Kaskiw said, with yields hitting 50 bushels an acre or above.

“With that, I can probably guess that we might see a few more acres of peas going in next year in this area as we see some crops maybe decline,” he said.

Reports out of central Manitoba were even more optimistic, with yields ranging from 60-80 bu./acre.

The Interlake’s variable streak didn’t break for the pulses. Peas ranged from 25-60 bu./acre, while the first soybeans off the field have, similarly, varied wildly.

“I think, certainly, the average is going to be lower this year than it has been,” Kristjanson said.

Corn

Corn is still standing, although mixed results are expected. Almost all of Manitoba reports above-average corn heat units, according to Manitoba Agriculture, and Picard says fields in central Manitoba look “very promising.”

Buss suspects his yields will range, as farmers noted leaves burning off as the hot, dry summer drew on. At the same time, he said, harvest is expected to be unusually early, with farmers planning for a September harvest rather than October.

“We’re not writing that one off,” he said. “We’re feeling like it’s mixed.”

Kaskiw, meanwhile, blames lack of moisture for what he expects to drop below the record yields the region has seen in the last few years.

“I’ve been talking to some of the silage guys and they’re reporting anywhere from 10-14 tons per acre,” he said. “Some of the guys are even saying that they’re seeing plants that didn’t even form cobs because of the dry conditions. It’s going to be variable, again, depending on where you are.”

Frost

The challenge now is to get crops off the field before frost damage can hit.

There has already been frost in the southwest, although Kaskiw says the impact is yet unknown. Both Birtle and Oakburn had reported extended temperatures under -2 C by mid-September, and fields still had standing canola when frost hit, he said.

Frost was also seen in the Interlake, although the province notes that most crops were too mature to be damaged.

The northwest, however, is expecting the most concern. The region had potentially damaging frost as early as Sept. 5.

“Some frost damage was evident in immature crops,” Clouson noted of the frost in Swan River.

The specialist is expecting at least some damage in the region’s soybeans.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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