Northern growers hope for early harvest

Harvest is underway in northern Saskatchewan and if early results are any indication, it could be a good one.

So far, peas are coming off in good condition with average to above average yields, wheat yields are expected be better than average and canola fields look good.

As usual, however, the success of this year’s harvest will hinge on the weather.

“In general, things look pretty good in this area,” said Howard Hobson, a machine operator and retired farmer from Cutknife, Sask. “The crops are better than average.”

Last week, Hobson was swathing seed wheat for Les Laing, who also farms in the Cutknife area, east of North Battleford, Sask.

According to Hobson, harvest operations are just getting underway in the Cutknife area.

Peas started coming off about a week ago and early cereals are close behind.

“Some pulse crops took a bit of a hit this year due to excess moisture,” Hobson said.

“Some are doing OK but the ones that are on lower ground, where they got more rain than usual, they’re not looking quite so good.”

In general, producers in north-central and northwestern Saskatchewan got off to an early start this spring and received ample rainfall throughout the growing season.

The result, in most cases, is a potentially early harvest with reduced risk of frost damage.

In the Prince Albert-Birch Hills area, combines were busy last week taking off peas and many growers were swathing spring wheat and barley.

With few exceptions, crops across a large part of the province’s northern grainbelt — from Prince Albert to the Alberta border — look to be in good to excellent condition with above average yield potential.

Along the provincial border, south of Lloydminster, crops are also advancing quickly and growers are hoping for an early harvest with potentially big yields and few quality issues.

“It’s looking very good,” said Mark Holmedal, who was harvesting peas last week for 4g Wild Farms Ltd., near Rivercourse, Alta.

“This is our first (pea) field of the year but they’re running really good and the quality looks pretty good too.”

According to Holmedal, rainfall was not excessive in the Rivercourse area but it came at the right time.

By all accounts, yield potential south and east of Lloydminster is expected to be at least average and likely above average.

“So far, it’s going well,” said Holmedal. “As long as the rain stays away, it could be a good one.”

At Spiritwood, Sask., west of Prince Albert, agronomist Curtis McNabb with Cavalier Agrow said it’s shaping up to be a “good, solid harvest” with average or slightly better than average yields.

“The talk is that the cereal crops are pretty good this year,” McNabb said.

“Canola? It’s always so hard to say until you actually get into it.”

According to McNabb, one of the most notable things abut the 2016 harvest could be its timing.

In general, crops in the Spiritwood area are at least a week ahead of normal.

Growers throughout northwestern Saskatchewan got an early start to seeding this year and crops came up quickly because soil temperatures were warmer than usual.

“More years than not, we’re cutting canola hoping that it won’t freeze in the next day or two,” McNabb said.

“This year, we’re going to be cutting a lot of our canola this weekend so that is a week to 10 days earlier than normal for us.”

“We’re as advanced here as just about anywhere. We’re hoping for a good solid crop that’s earlier than normal, as long as the weather co-operates.”

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