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Wet weather makes mud of farm tires

After a dry summer, a dumping of water bogs down harvest 2019

Wet weather put the brakes on harvest in many regions of Manitoba, putting progress behind average and threatening crop quality.

“We’re definitely behind,” said Jake Ayre, who farms near Minto. On September 24, he said their harvest was about 40 per cent complete.

“Believe it or not, we combined 100 acres yesterday,” he said. Ayre said after nearly six inches of rain over the weekend, a scout of their fields turned up dry grain.

He added harvesting wasn’t without difficulty as the combines threatened to sink a few times.

Ayre said they also got some hail damage and would be speaking to an insurance adjuster shortly. Damage was enough to make a claim, he said, but not severe.

Getting the food off the field hinges on having the right weather, and the longer crops sit unharvested, the greater chance their quality drops.

Guys are trying to find the driest field to go on.” Lionel Kaskiw, Manitoba Agriculture.
photo: Jake Ayre

Fiona Jochum, who farms near St. Francois Xavier, said their fields have standing water in the low areas. On September 24 she estimated they wouldn’t be back in the fields all week, though they only have soybeans left to harvest.

“Guys are trying to find the driest field to go on — and find a field where you can do something with the grain, whether it is aerating it down (for moisture content) or grain drying,” Manitoba Agriculture crop production adviser Lionel Kaskiw said during a webinar September 25.

“We’ve been getting quite a few questions regarding grain drying,” he added.

In a typical year, most producers combine their soybeans in the last 10 days of September. As of September 24, only five per cent of Manitoba’s soybeans were harvested, well behind the normal progress of 30 per cent.

“I haven’t heard of many people harvesting flax or soybeans — for the southwest and northwest regions,” Kaskiw said.

Overall harvest was at about 59 per cent complete, according to the September 24 Manitoba Agriculture crop report.

This puts it below the three-year average of 70.2 per cent for the fourth week of September.

Southwest

Severe thunderstorms with hail and heavy rain prolonged an already delayed harvest, the crop report said. Cereal quality is deteriorating quickly. Overall harvest was 55 per cent complete.

Canola harvest was at 30 per cent with yields between 45 and 50 bushels per acre. Quality is good. Spring wheat is 65 per cent harvested with average yields. In most cases, aeration and drying is needed. Unharvested crops are being downgraded due to mildew and sprouting.

Soybeans were moving past the point of frost injury, with no reports of harvesting yet. Grain corn needs another week of nice weather for maturity, and heavy frost could affect yield and quality.

Most cattle are still on pasture with some supplemental feeding. Producers are anticipating that weather-damaged crops will be made available for feed, alleviating shortages.

Northwest

Harvesting was proceeding “in earnest,” the crop report said. Field pea harvest is complete with reported yields of 40 to 80 bu./ac.

Spring wheat harvest was about 75 per cent complete, though only 25 per cent near The Pas. Yields are in the range of 60 to 90 bu./ac. Drying is required.

Overall harvest was at about 59 per cent complete, according to the September 24 Manitoba Agriculture crop report.
photo: Jake Ayre

Oats and barley are 50 to 75 per cent harvested. High winds in some parts of the region blew around canola swaths. Progress was between 35 and 50 per cent harvested with yields in the 45 to 60 bu./ac. range.

Rain has challenged field operations. Straw was waiting to be baled, and some late-seeded crops remained to be cut for feed.

Recent rain has improved pasture conditions, but some producers are weaning and culling herds earlier than usual.

Central

A large rain system brought from 40 to 130 millimetres of rain across the region, Manitoba Agriculture reported. Some hail was reported.

Most grain was put on aeration. Soil moisture was rated as good to surplus, with limited run-off due to soil absorption.

Harvest of wheat, oats and barley was complete in the Red River Valley, and 85 per cent complete west of the escarpment. Ripe, unharvested cereals were seeing bleaching and downgrading quality. Swathed fields showed signs of grain sprouting.

Silage corn harvest was underway and some poorer grain cornfields were being harvested as silage. Soybeans are ready for harvest in the Red River Valley, and some has been harvested with reported yields of about 30 bu./ac. There were reports of pod and stem blight on mature soybeans.

About 30 to 40 per cent of field beans had been harvested. Canola harvest was at 90 per cent in the Red River Valley with yields ranging from 25 to 55 bu./ac. due to moisture variations. West of the escarpment, harvest was at about 50 per cent.

Second-cut hayfields and pastures had greened up, providing some fall grazing. Hay sampling and testing is underway with results showing nitrates in some feeds affected by dry conditions. Producers feeding a variety of feed sources should test and have rations balanced to meet livestock requirements.

Eastern

Fields were wet to saturated, with standing water in some areas. Overall harvest progress was at 65 per cent, but had halted due to wet conditions.

Isolated hailstorms caused some shatter damage to canola and soybean crops. Soil moisture was rated at 60 per cent surplus and 40 per cent adequate.

Spring wheat harvest was almost complete with an average yield of 65 bu./ac. Quality on remaining wheat had degraded due to sprouting and mildew.

Oat harvest was nearly complete with yields of over 100 bu./ac. Remaining oats had degraded significantly. Barley harvest was complete with an average yield of 70 bu./ac. Canola harvest was at 85 per cent with yields averaging 45 bu./ac. and good quality.

Soybean harvest had just begun. Corn silage harvest was about 10 per cent complete.

Supplemental feeding was occurring on pastures, with conditions rated as 30 per cent good, 40 per cent fair, and 30 per cent poor. Winter feed supplies were rated at 60 per cent adequate for hay, 80 per cent adequate for straw, 70 per cent adequate for greenfeed and 80 per cent adequate for feed grain.

Interlake

Significant rains brought harvest to a standstill. Shorter days and high humidity also affected harvest. The ground is soft enough for ruts and compaction to become a concern, but soil moisture levels remain low at depth.

Harvest was estimated at 60 to 65 per cent complete. Many producers are reporting better-than-expected yields considering the year. Yields are highly variable and much is coming in at average or slightly below average.

Cereal harvest was nearly complete. Canola ranged from 40 to 75 per cent complete. Early yields are reported to range from 30 to 60 bu./ac. Flax harvest had begun with early reports of 20 to 30 bu./ac.

Most sunflowers are at R8 or R9 with short stands. Some corn has shut down due to dry conditions. Cobs formed have fewer rows than average, and some are extremely small.

Silage corn harvest was continuing with yields lower than normal. Quality was also a concern.

Hybrid fall rye and winter wheat seeding was progressing well with even germination and fields growing well. Some reseeded canola has not been harvested.

Extremely dry soil has limited recovery and growth of pastures and hay. Recent rains have perked things up, allowing producers to delay supplemental feeding. Forage availability continues to be a concern.

Topsoil moisture for hay and pasture is rated as 60 per cent short and 20 per cent very short. Pasture condition is rated fair to very poor.

Yields vary

“We luckily got our wheat, oats, and canola harvested before the rain,” said Jochum. She said they haven’t seen quality loss. “There are many farmers who were not so lucky.”

She added that they saw some loss after high winds caused some canola to shell out.

“That being said, we were still able to pull off close to average yields in our wheat, oats and canola,” said Jochum.

Ayre said, yield-wise, they’ve had a “very good year.”

“We’ve accepted the risks of being in this business,” he said. “Farming is not for the faint of heart.”

— With files from Glen Hallick

About the author

Reporter

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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