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Harvesting The Silver Linings

There are many reasons to be disappointed this harvest. But you can also find silver linings.

Every farm faces a different set of circumstances. Here are some of my highlights and lowlights.

Like many southern Saskatchewan farmers, I’m still combining lentils. Whenever you’re still harvesting lentils at the end of September, it isn’t good news. The quality is low from disease and weeks of rain. Now the crop is so flat to the ground that you can’t get a lot of it into the combine.

I’m still hoping the lentils coming off might grade an Extra 3. Even if they’ll grade a No. 3 it wouldn’t be bad. A lowly No. 3 large green lentil is currently selling for more money than most analysts were predicting for the top grade a few months ago.

As we scrape the ground with the combine header, stopping often to dig off the mud, it’s easy to get discouraged. Still, as long as the crop will grade, it will be worth the effort.

Yes, harvest losses are high from pods spilling their seeds on the ground and all the plants too tight to the ground to salvage, but the yield is still very good. You can let yourself become depressed about all the production you’re leaving in the field or just be happy for what you’re putting in the bin.

My kabuli chickpeas are a different story. They look good from a distance, and unlike the lentils they are standing up nicely and will be easy to cut. Unfortunately, the frost that started the evening of September 18 and continued well into the morning of the 19 has devastated this late-maturing, heat-loving crop.

Most of the seeds are going to remain an ugly green colour. Unfortunately, there isn’t much demand for frost-damaged, green chickpeas. Even on St. Patrick’s Day, no one wants green hummus.

Incredibly, most of this crop is unlikely to see a combine. I hope to do the patches that were the most mature when the frost hit in the hope of getting some planting seed for next year. Depending how the sample looks, I might also do some other areas in the hope that with colour sorting enough green seed can be removed to have a marketable product.

Most of the 600 acres, however, is likely to see a mower rather than a combine. There’s just not enough economic value to warrant the expense of combining.

It’s frustrating that just one night of frost can render so much investment useless. If we had missed that one night, the warm weather that followed might have pushed the crop to maturity.

The silver lining in this case will be the crop insurance coverage. At least it should pay the expenses.

Of the crops I’m growing this year, the bright light is canola. The last 100 acres were swathed in the mud just before the frost so it may have sustained some damage, but the rest of the canola was down well in advance of the frost.

Heat and lack of moisture usually limit canola yields in this region, but that wasn’t the case this year. It should be a better-than-average crop and canola prices are near the top of their historical range.

The way this strange growing season has gone, it’s easy to become depressed, but as much as possible a person might as well view the glass as half full rather than half empty.

Kevin Hursh is a consulting agrologist and farmer. He can

be reached at [email protected]

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