Wheat quality tanking in Saskatchewan

There are 65 million bushels of wheat still to harvest, but most of it will grade feed or lower thanks to poor weather

A wet snowfall that turned the Saskatchewan harvest into a soggy mess last week has buried any hopes that the province will take off an average quality wheat crop this year.

An estimated 21 percent of the provincial wheat crop was still in the field as of last weekend.

Virtually no harvest activity was expected to take place this week.

That leaves the province’s farmers with nearly 1.5 million acres of low-quality wheat to grind through when harvest conditions finally improve.

“It’s not a write off yet but it’s not looking good in terms of quality,” said Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.

“In our area, I really haven’t heard of very much, if any, No. 1 so far. There’s some 2s, a lot of 3s and now, we’ll likely be going into the feed area after this one.”

Saskatchewan Agriculture is estimating provincial wheat yields at 44 bushels per acre, which would mean the province’s farmers have roughly 65 million bu. of wheat left to harvest.

The quality of this year’s wheat crop was below average even before the early October storm.

According to Saskatchewan Agriculture crop reporters, roughly 40 percent of the spring wheat harvested before the Oct. 3 storm was either No. 3 or feed.

Observers say most of the spring wheat that comes off between now and the end of the year will be lucky to make anything other than feed.

Hall, who farms near Wynyard in east-central Saskatchewan, said growers in his region have harvested 70 to 90 percent of the crop.

He said this year’s high-volume, low-quality wheat crop could present marketing challenges, but growers are more concerned about getting their remaining bushels off and managing it.

“When you get into this time of year, you just start taking it when you can,” Hall said. “You worry about drying it later. As long as it will go through the combine … it’s time to take it off.”

Daryl Beswitherick, quality manager with the Canadian Grain Commission, said quality concerns are becoming more evident.

He said there’s a fairly strong possibility that most, if not all, of the wheat harvested in Saskatchewan from now on will be sold as feed.

“It’s definitely possible,” he said.

After a heavy snowfall, “the mildew would definitely increase and typically, we’d start to see sprouting with that as well.”

Bill Gehl, chair of the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, said quality prospects for late harvested wheat are not great.

However, this year’s spring wheat harvest will be larger than usual and a significant amount of that — nearly 80 percent — came off before the recent snowfall.

“It’s a big crop and anything that’s in the bin already, certainly on the spring wheat side, is pretty decent, so I think there’s going to be adequate good quality wheat to meet customer demand” he said.

“That’s the really nice thing about the HRSW class is that it’s such an elastic class. There’s always demand for the really high quality stuff … and that’s usually mixed off with lower quality (grain).”

Gehl said durum quality, which was significantly affected by fusarium, will create marketing headaches.

“It (fusarium damaged durum) is going to be an issue … especially because the crop was so big,” he said.

“Some guys had some pretty tremendous yields, so there’s no doubt that some of this crop will be carried over and hopefully (will be) mixed off with some of the better stuff.”

Durum in the top three grades with low fusarium levels should see strong demand as the marketing season progresses, he added.

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