Crop tours yield positive news

Growing conditions good | Crops have caught up after slow start, frost risk no more than usual

A growing season that began with seeding delays and cold weather has turned the corner.

“At this stage there is probably an average to above average crop possible for large parts of Western Canada,” said Neil Townsend, director of CWB Market Research.

Manitoba’s fields are looking particularly impressive, as can be seen in a photo that one of Townsend’s colleagues recently took of his soybean field south of Winnipeg.

“He just had a cheap little camera but it looks like professional grade shots from Monsanto or BASF,” said Townsend.

“(The beans) just looked really excellent.”

CWB conducted crop tours of Manitoba and Saskatchewan last week, and the feedback was encouraging despite some trouble spots in Saskatchewan.

“The good outweighs the bad by quite a bit,” said Townsend.

Crops have caught up to the point that there shouldn’t be any more fall frost risk than usual.

Townsend said there is a stark contrast between crops in Manitoba and those across the U.S. border, which have been saturated with rain.

“If you didn’t know your directions, you would think you were standing south of North Dakota when you’re in Manitoba because things look way more advanced,” he said.

Harry Brook, a crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture, said crops are progressing nicely in that province.

“We started with such a late spring that it’s surprising how quickly the crop has come along,” he said.

A crop that was seeded two to three weeks late is at worst a week behind and in many cases on schedule because of better than average heat units.

“It’s shaping up to be a really good crop,” said Brook.

“I don’t know about bumper crop, but (it’s) certainly well above average. The cereals especially look phenomenal.”

Grant McLean, a cropping management specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, said ample sunshine has also sped up crop development in his province.

“We may not be quite as far advanced as we would be in a normal year, but I think we’re playing pretty good catch-up,” he said.

Two-thirds of the crop was rated at normal development as of July 1. The furthest delayed crops are three to four days behind normal, said McLean.

“With the way the crops are advancing, I think that the (frost) risks are certainly reduced,” he said.

There are plenty of problem areas in the province in which fields are under water, McLean added, but in general the crops are looking “quite good.”

Gordon Reichert, senior scientific adviser with Statistics Canada’s agriculture division, said satellite maps of prairie vegetation indicate lush crops.

“There has been quite a big change in the crop vegetation. It has improved considerably,” he said.

Much of the prairie map is green or dark green, which means vegetative growth is higher or much higher than the previous 26 years.

Townsend pointed out that the crop is six to eight weeks from being in the bin, and a lot can happen during that time to reduce yields.

He said a bigger crop usually means lower protein levels, while excess moisture has led to elevated disease pressure across the Prairies.

However, the crop looks surprisingly promising, given the rocky start to the year.

“Certainly in larger pockets than you would have expected there’s potential for an above average yield,” Townsend said.

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