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Manitoba farmers look for good weather to resume harvest

A wet turn after a dry summer has many farmers wondering if they’ll get the crop off

Beleaguered Manitoba farmers struggling to wrap up harvest are hoping for more good weather, and maybe a hard frost so machinery can travel on muddy fields.

A major snowstorm Thanksgiving weekend just made fields, already soaked by above-average fall rain, wetter.

As of Oct. 15, 26 per cent of Manitoba’s crop — 2.6 million acres worth $1 billion — was still in the field.

Despite poor conditions a little bit of corn was being harvested around Carman, Winkler and Altona Oct. 15, Manitoba Corn Growers Association field agronomist Morgan Cott said.

Why it matters: As of Oct. 15, Manitoba Agriculture estimated 26 per cent of Manitoba’s crop was still in the field. Most of it was corn (grain and silage), soybeans, potatoes, sunflowers, dry beans and flax.

On average, only five per cent of the wheat was unharvested, and 20 per cent of the canola was unharvested, about 640,000 acres. There were 910,000 acres of soybeans, or 70 per cent of the crop, still out.

Meanwhile, the quality of unharvested crops is deteriorating, Bruce Burnett, director of markets and weather for MarketFarms, said.

“A lot of the wheat will be feed (grade),” he said.

However, much of Manitoba’s wheat crop was harvested before the wet weather, and on the whole, will grade better than wheat grown in Saskatchewan and Alberta where crops were later.

It’s still possible farmers can get more crop off this fall or even next spring, said David Van Deynze, of the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation.

“We’re holding out hope here and I think most farmers are as well,” he said in an interview Oct. 18.

“Some cereals crops that have been down for a month and a half aren’t looking good there’s no doubt. The crops that are standing, for the most part I think the farmers are hopeful.”

Last week MASC was receiving some crop insurance claims from farmers, but Van Deynze didn’t know if they were because the farmers couldn’t finish harvest, or had finished and were in a claim position.

Normally crop insurance doesn’t settle claims until harvest is complete.

Farmers who may be in a claim position because of low yields on what has been harvested and what’s left in the field might be able to get an interim payment, Van Deynze said. But MASC is cautious.

“The only thing worse than a farmer having to have a claim is having a claim he’s got to pay back,” he said.

Some mould is showing up in Manitoba corn now and the humid conditions could make it worse, Cott said.

“Every field I go into I find at least a little bit, but it’s different kinds,” she said. “We’re mostly worried about gibberella and fusarium ear mould… and I haven’t seen a lot of it.”

Manitoba corn crops suffered from mould in 2009 and 2004 and both years MASC wrote off much of the crop. This year is different because the corn is more mature, Van Deynze said.

“I also think we learned for the last time,” he said.

He noted that Husky Energy’s Minnedosa plant is willing to take mouldy corn.

“We’ll have to take a wait-and-see approach and see how bad it is and figure out what might happen,” Van Deynze said.

Snow can be harder on soybeans. It looks like many fields came through all right. The question is when will farmers be able to harvest them, said Manitoba Agriculture pulse crop specialist Dennis Lange.

Before the snow, pod and stem blight was showing up in some fields. Some seed decay was present, which can cause dark blemishes on the seed. When blemished seeds exceed two per cent buyers discount the price, he said.

Before the snow soybeans were averaging about 30 bushels an acre, which is below the 10-year average of 34.

“Now will be less than that,” Lange said. “A lot will depend on what we get harvested.”

Manitoba potato growers still had about 30 per cent of their crop to harvest, Dan Sawatzky, manager of the Keystone Potato Growers Association, said in an interview Oct. 18.

But in the Carberry and Portage la Prairie area farmers were only 20 to 50 per cent done.

“It will be very slow going, very tough going,” Sawatzky told CBC Radio Oct. 16. The reality is there probably won’t be a lot more harvested.”

This is the second tough harvest in a row for potato growers. Last year 5,400 acres didn’t get harvested.

About the author

Reporter

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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