‘It’s a crop of a lifetime,’ farmer says
Manitoba producers optimistic as Mother Nature sows great growing conditions
T’S never cool for farmers to be too optimistic before all the crop is in the bin.
But early signs are pointing to a very strong year in Manitoba — for cereal grains and oilseeds in particular.
Even after an exceptionally dry summer in Manitoba, many industry folks are expecting at least an above-average year, thanks to an amazing combination of conditions that have worked out just right so far.
“It’s a crop of a lifetime,” said Chuck Fossay, who farms about 3,600 acres just north of Starbuck.
But the wheat is still coming off the fields, canola harvesting is just getting started and corn and soybeans are a couple of weeks away. Nobody is willing to definitively call it a bumper crop yet — but it is shaping up that way.
Fossay said he is getting yields of close to 90 bushels per acre on red spring wheat and an average of 54 to 55 bushels per acre on the canola
Ihe has already taken off.
“Our long-term average on canola is probably about 40 bushels per acre and we did a wheat field, 240 acres, that yielded just below 90 bushels,” he said.
“That is completely unheard of for red spring wheat. The best we ever harvested was 70, maybe 10 years ago.”
Wet conditions last fall saturated the soil and dry conditions during this growing season meant the plants had to develop deep roots to get at the moisture, which Fossay said probably allowed them to withstand the summer.
Angela Brackenreed, an agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Manitoba, said the wet harvest weather last year — as frustrating as it was at the time — probably helped produce a good crop this year.
“The other thing was that although we had fairly high daytime temperatures in July, we had unusually low nighttime temperatures for Manitoba,” she said.
“That really helped give the crops a reprieve.”
On top of all that, because of the lower-moisture conditions there is less disease. This is particularly true of Fusarium head blight — an otherwise chronic condition in Manitoba.
“We have been out with Manitoba Agriculture and Agriculture Canada staff doing disease surveying and there is exceptionally low disease this year,” Brackenreed said.
Dan Mazier, the president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, was on his swather at his farm near Justice on Wednesday morning.
“It’s a very good crop,” he said.
“As far as yield goes, it’s one of the highest I’ve ever grown.”
He said the combination of high yields and low Fusarium is uncommon, but a happy scenario for Manitoba.
Newer wheat varieties may be accounting for some of the better yields from fields that have already been harvested.
“We are pretty excited about some of the new varieties that are coming on stream,” said Lori-Ann Kaminski, research manager with Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association.
“They are showing some beautiful yields. When it all plays out it is particularly gratifying.”
While there were different weather conditions in different parts of the province — western Manitoba had more rain events and crop land near The Pas was so wet this year that they were still having trouble seeding in July — most of the province is currently experiencing dry harvesting conditions.
“We’ve all experienced wet harvests with a significant amount of headaches,” Fred Grieg said from his farm in Reston.
“When you can get into a drier trend at harvest, absolutely it makes it a lot more delightful.”
Another bonus to promising early results is that many producers did not have their hopes up earlier in the summer.
Kaminski said some winter wheat did not come through over wintering as healthy as was hoped and the normally high yields for that crop are only average.
And earlier in the summer the canola crop was not looking great.
“I can’t speak on behalf of all the farmers in the province, but I think most are quite surprised — even at what they are seeing visually in the fields,” Brackenreed said.
“Even if we were to bring in an average crop, I think a lot of people will say that is pretty good, considering the conditions we had.”
With drought conditions south of the border and to a lesser extent in southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, wheat prices are better than they’ve been in the last couple of years.
“The equation we always look for is bushels per acre times price — we’ve got better than average bushels and better than average price,” said Grieg, who is also chairman of the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association.
“That is a good thing.”
Volunteers harvest 110 acres of wheat on Wednesday during the Chip-In Glenlea project south of Winnipeg. The wheat will be sold, with proceeds going toward the Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s efforts to end global hunger.