Late-seeded crop dodges harvest bullet

Farmers have made tremendous harvest progress in the northern Prairies and it now appears the vast majority of the crop will make it to the bin, say crop watchers.


The market was particularly concerned about the late-seeded crop in Alberta’s Peace region, but farmers made great strides last week.


“My agronomist contacts and the farmers I’m most closely associated with have been really enthused about the pace of harvest and the yields they’re getting,” said Greg Sekulic, agronomy specialist for the Peace region with the Canola Council of Canada.


The northern Peace region is essentially finished with harvest after experiencing the best growing conditions Sekulic has seen since 2011.


“There’s a lot more happy faces up there than in years past,” he said.


Harvest is progressing nicely in the central and south regions. 


He estimated that 20 percent of the canola crop remained to be combined as of Oct. 6, which differs from the most recent Alberta crop report, which said 56 percent was still standing as of Oct. 3.


Sekulic said he had “no small amount of trepidation” about the crop early in the year when farmers were still seeding into June. The usual rule of thumb is the later the crop the worse it performs. 


“The way conditions played out this year, it’s kind of one of those one-in-10 years where the later seeded stuff seems to be yielding better,” he said.


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Farmers are getting average to above-average yields after a summer with decent moisture and plenty of late summer heat followed by yet another gift from Mother Nature.


“This open fall is probably the most tremendous thing that could have happened,” said Sekulic.


He feels it is “quite likely” the entire crop will come off before the snow flies.


Alberta Agriculture estimates 53 percent of all crops had been harvested in the northeast and 26 percent in the northwest as of Oct. 3, both well below the five-year averages of 76 and 70 percent.


Shannon Friesen, cropping management specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, estimates 75 percent of the crop in the northwest and up to 85 percent in the northeast had been combined as of Oct. 6. That is up from 57 and 59 percent a week earlier.


“Many producers were able to put in very long hours to try and get much more of the crop off, and the north did make tremendous strides (last) week,” she said.


Yields are average to well-above average, making up for disappointing crops in the south. 


Many in the trade are now estimating a Canadian canola crop of more than 20 million tonnes, which is much higher than Agriculture Canada’s Aug. 31 survey-based estimate of 18.2 million tonnes.


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Most of the crops remaining in the field are ready to go, but there are some problems getting out on wet fields in places such as Hudson Bay and Tisdale.


She is pretty confident the remainder of the crop will be harvested, although some may have to come off tough.


“We all kind of have last year in the back of our minds and no one really wants to see that again,” said Friesen. 


“This time last year we had stalled completely. We had heavy snow pretty much in all corners of the province.”


An estimated two to 2.5 million acres of crops were left unharvested last year.


Anne Kirk, cereals specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, said things are progressing nicely in the northwest.


“The cereal crops and canola have been harvested for the most part,” she said.


There is still some soybeans, silage corn, sunflowers and flax in the fields.


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