Harvest was slow to take off across the province but farmers are reporting good progress getting it into the bin.
“Harvest has been off to a good start,” according to Dwight McGill, who farms near Pleasant Valley, Man. “It’s been, ‘Hurry up and wait,’ as it was in the spring with how fields dried up piece by piece. We’ve been working on Red Hard Spring wheat and malt barley.”
Why it matters: A late spring has led into a late start to harvest, but farmers are chipping away at the gap.
Most crops were still behind normal harvest progress, as of the last week of August. According to the Aug. 25 crop report, winter cereals were about a week behind normal, sitting at about 10-12 per cent shy of complete, compared to an average 99 per cent at the time, averaged over the last three years.
Spring wheat, likewise, was just under half of where farmers would normally expect to be. About 23 per cent was done, compared to a three-year normal of 50 per cent. Oats, meanwhile, were significantly behind, with only 17 per cent of acres harvested, compared to the 55 per cent average. Barley (38 per cent done, compared to an average 65 per cent), peas (70 per cent done compared to an average 94 per cent) and canola (only two per cent done, compared to 24 per cent) were likewise behind.
In total, about 13 per cent of harvest was done.
That, however, ranges considerably across the province. In the southwest, 95 per cent of crops or more remained in the field as of Aug. 25, “with the majority of the combining done south of the Trans-Canada,” and only five per cent of wheat and 20 per cent of peas were in the bin in the northwest.
The east, meanwhile, had 15 per cent of acres harvested.
Yield and quality
The slow start to harvest echoes seeding challenges this spring, with cold May weather keeping many producers out of the field.
That difficult spring is also showing itself in yield, the province says.
In general, early wheat yields have been average to slightly below, “given stresses faced by all crops this spring,” the Aug. 25 report says, although oat and barley yields have reportedly been average or above.
Wheat yields in both the southwest and central regions hovered between 60-70 bushels an acre, while the east was slightly higher (60-80 bushels an acre), and reports out of the Interlake fluctuated as low as 45 and as high as 95 bushels an acre.
McGill says yields and quality in his region have been good so far, although he notes it’s still early.
Sosefo Gordon, who farms Prairie Island Farms near Franklin, Man., said fields have dried out “substantially” from moisture earlier this summer.
Areas around Brandon, Minnedosa and Neepawa saw significant flooding in late June and early July, with severe thunderstorms dropping official rain counts of over 200 millimetres in the space of days.
Producers in the area expressed concern over pea and some canola acres following the storms, although Gordon says that, with the exception of some lodging, “field conditions have been favourable so far,” in his family’s field peas outside of Neepawa.
Pea yields so far in the province have ranged from 40-55 bushels an acre in the southwest to 60-80 bushels an acre in central Manitoba.
“We have pre-harvested our wheat and should be starting that within the next few days — Expecting average to above average yields in most crops, with soybeans looking better than we’ve seen in the past four years,” Gordon added.
Manitoba’s cereals have had some issues with ergot, according to the province. The Aug. 25 crop report noted high levels of ergot in fall rye in the Gladstone area, and, “Harvested fields have been harrowed to break up and distribute crop residue.”
Likewise, there has been some ergot reported in spring wheat in central Manitoba.
Bruce Burnett, director of weather and markets for Glacier MarketsFarm, noted that in the southern areas where winter wheat and pulse harvest is almost complete, farmers have started into their wheat and barley harvest.
“We’ve made some pretty good progress with the warm weather over the last two-three weeks,” he said.
“The drier areas in the northwest, like Dauphin, are seeing good progress there as well in cereals. The recent rains could have helped soybeans even though I’m guessing they won’t be ready until almost Labour Day,” he added.
High humidity, however, has hurt harvest progress in some parts, including reports of some grain dryers already fired up in the Interlake, according to the Aug. 25 crop report.
The Interlake is expecting better crops this year, given more early rain reported this season.
Going forward in the next few weeks, Burnett expects more progress in the cereal and canola harvest as farmers in the southeast wait for their soybean and corn crops.