Grain cleaning solutions still unclear as harvest progresses

Farmers are beginning to wonder how to salvage value out of their weather-damaged crops.

But Roy Ritchie, a Flaman grain-cleaning specialist, doesn’t have easy answers for them.

Different types of crop damage have different solutions.

“They ask: ‘What can I do?’ I say: ‘I don’t know. I’d have to see it’,” said Ritchie, who estimated he fielded 80-90 farmer calls about cleaning-out damage in the first full week of September.

Across Western Canada, farmers are anxiously watching the seeds that are going into their combine hoppers to see how much their crops suffered from the multitude of diseases that thrived during the wet summer and damp early harvest season.

Everything from ergot to fusarium to sclerotinia hit crops, damaging kernels, seeds and pods and creating damaged material in samples.

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That damaged material can lead to big discounts on crops when delivered to a buyer, so many farmers might consider cleaning it out to protect a crop’s value.

However, different types of damage tend to require different approaches, with different sorts of cleaning machinery removing different substances.

“There are quite a few different solutions but we don’t know what will work best yet,” said Ritchie.

Flaman sells cleaning equipment, but doesn’t know what will be most in demand this season. It will be weeks before enough harvest is completed for farmers and others to understand how much cleaning will be needed, and by what methods.

“This isn’t going to be an easy problem (to deal with,)” said Ritchie. “I believe it’s really widespread.”

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As well, the situation has been made more difficult because farmers tend to first harvest pulses and canola, and leave most cereal grains in the field.

Wheat is subject to significant discounts and premiums based on quality spreads, so the crop with the greatest gains or losses from the disease and weather damage will also be the last one to be assessed.

With rains frequent in many parts of Western Canada during harvest, sprouting is likely to be a problem.

However, until enough comes in, estimating how much cleaning will be necessary is impossible.

“We have not seen enough samples yet,” said Ritchie.

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“We’ve called for lots but we don’t have them yet.”