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Great Weather Helps With Late Harvest

“My gut feel is the biggest amount of those acres have probably disappeared.”

– CRAIG THOMSON

Two giant green combines pull out of the cornfield at the junction of highways 23 and 3 after dumping their overflowing hoppers of golden kernels.

It’s still too wet, says one of the combine operators from the Rosebank Hutterite Colony.

It’s the same story for much of the corn around the province. However, the recent warm, dry weather has seen corn moisture levels come down – and mould levels go up.

Those same above-normal temperatures – some days in the double digits – have been a blessing for farmers trying to finish up harvesting soybeans, sunflowers, flax and even canola and some cereal crops.

UNHARVESTED ACRES

As of Nov. 9 there were 474,000 acres of crop left to harvest in Manitoba, according to Craig Thomson, vice-president of insurance operations with the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC).

“Since then we’ve had some remarkably good weather and I think significant progress has been made this week,” he said in an interview Nov. 13. “My gut feel is the biggest amount of those acres have probably disappeared.”

With good weather forecast to continue this week there’s a chance it will still get combined. Some of those who have put the combine away will be busy applying anhydrous ammonia.

Most of Manitoba’s sunflowers are now in the bin, said Anastasia Kubinec, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives’ (MAFRI) oilseed specialist.

“Talking to some of the sunflower association directors 80 to 90 per cent of sunflowers have come off in the past week,” Kubinec said in an interview Nov. 12. “Things are looking good.”

Yields and quality vary.

“In some areas it’s the best crop they’ve ever had and in other areas there’s so much sclerotinia (head rot) it’s one of the poorest crops they’ve ever had,” she said. “I think the further west you go the crops are exceptional. They had less head rot.”

Sclerotinia, known as white mould in soybeans, was severe in a few soybean crops, but fortunately most were not that badly damaged, said MAFRI’s Brent Reid. He estimates 95 per cent of the province’s soybeans are harvested. There are still soybeans out in the Whitemouth and Lac du Bonnet areas because of wet field conditions.

“There certainly was a better soybean crop out there than we were thinking there might be,” he said.

YIELDS

While some farmers harvested up to 50 bushels an acre, Reid expects the provincial average to be around 30, despite a cool spring, followed by a cool, wet summer.

One of the lessons learned this growing season is that any extra stress delays the crop’s maturity, he said.

The recent good weather allowed farmers to clean up most of the unharvested canola and flax too, Kubinec said. And a lot of it was coming off dry. One farmer’s flax was testing five or six per cent moisture, she said. Ten per cent is considered dry.

Grain corn will account for most of the unharvested crop, but it’s disappearing too. Most of the cornfields appraised by MASC so far have been written off because of excess mould, Thomson said. However, he added there’s mouldy corn that is still worth harvesting.

As of last week Husky Energy’s Minnedosa ethanol plant, had not received enough mouldy corn to assess its suitability, spokesman Graham White said in an e-mail.

“We are hoping to have the sample size we need by next week and then we can begin the testing process,” he said.

Mouldy corn could adversely affect distillers dried grains – the byproduct from the ethanol-making process – that’s fed to livestock.

The amount of mould in corn varies around the province, said Wilt Billing, an agronomist, with Pioneer Hi-Bred.

“But the vast majority of the mould doesn’t contain mycotoxins so it’s safe to feed,” he said. “Farmers who plan to feed their corn should have it tested first.”

Of the 17 cobs taken from four locations by MAFRI’s John McGregor, all were infected with cladosporium mould, which doesn’t produce toxins. Three cobs had fusarium, which under some conditions can produce vomitoxin (DON). Four cobs had mucor mould, which if inhaled may cause mycotic abortions in a small percentage of susceptible animals.

Based on the results so far, most of the corn mould is not toxic, however, it may reduce the nutritional livestock feeding value by an estimated 10 to 15 per cent, McGregor said in an e-mail.

One farmer’s corn tested 0.2 ppm for vomitoxin, less than 2.0 ppb (parts per billion) for aflatoxin and less that 20 ppb for zearalone, he added. At these levels the corn is suitable as a feed for hogs and ruminants.

[email protected]PINK IS NOT PRETTY: These kernels of corn are stained pink due to stress and the nutritional value is not affected, according to Wilt Billing of Pioneer Hi-Bred. However, there is mould present lower in the kernels.

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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