‘It’s a crop of a life­time,’ farmer says

Man­i­toba pro­duc­ers op­ti­mistic as Mother Na­ture sows great grow­ing con­di­tions

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - MARTIN CASH martin.cash@freep­ress.mb.ca

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.

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