Prairie crop looks slightly leaner than last year

LANGHAM, Sask. — Bruce Burnett thinks the 2018 crop will be a bit smaller than the 2017 crop after touring fields across the prairie region.

“Crop yields are expected to be lower than last year but not by a significant amount,” he told farmers attending the 2018 Ag in Motion show.

He estimated an average prairie canola yield of 40 bushels per acre compared to 41 last year, spring wheat is pegged at 48 versus 52 and durum a disappointing 34.5 compared to 35.3.

The forecast came with the caveat that weather could still have a serious impact on those numbers.

His estimates are in line with Agriculture Canada’s with the exception of durum. The government is forecasting 37 bu. per acre for that crop.

Burnett, who works for Glacier MarketsFarm, provided a province-by-province breakdown of his tour. MarketsFarm is owned by Glacier FarmMedia, which also owns The Western Producer.

Manitoba’s crops are a lot further ahead of normal development.

“The crops in Manitoba are in good shape. There (are) no big disasters looming in Manitoba,” he said.

Yield potential is less than last year but that was a year where the province had record wheat and canola yields.

“This year, we’re just not going to quite make it,” said Burnett.

Unusually hot spring and early summer weather has compressed the growing season.

Wheat plant counts are similar to last year due to good establishment, but wheat heads are 15 to 20 percent shorter than they were on last year’s tour, which will temper yields.

Corn and soybean crops need rain over the next three to four weeks or they will suffer losses.

Crops in the south and central portions of the province are running out of soil moisture.

Saskatchewan had the most mixed conditions out of the three provinces.

Crops are “extremely stressed” in the south and central areas of the province where they are turning and losing leaves.

“Dryness is especially going to be a problem for the pulse crops and the durum,” he said.

If they don’t receive rain soon they will experience significant yield loss despite being drought hardy crops.

Burnett is particularly concerned about inadequate root structure in drought-stricken areas. He fears they will be unable to sustain the plants.

Crops in northern Saskatchewan are in far better shape.

“In fact, some of the best crops on the tour that I saw were up in northeast Saskatchewan,” said Burnett.

There is a pocket in the extreme eastern portion of the province around Moosomin, Esterhazy and Kamsack where heavy rains have caused some drowning and flooding.

Crops are developing at a normal pace in Alberta.

Establishment was good in the southern part of the province, but crops are now experiencing heat stress.

The fill on barley crops is not going to be good in the south and canola needs rain to sustain blooming days and increase yields.

Conditions turn around considerably north of Red Deer. In fact, north of Highway 16, there are fields with too much moisture and have some unplanted areas.

“I’d like to stress last year we saw those same things,” said Burnett.

There is good subsoil moisture in central and northern Alberta. Wheat head size is smaller than last year due to the heat and rapid crop development.

Final yields across the Prairies will depend heavily on how the weather unfolds over the next few weeks.

“We need rain almost immediately,” said Burnett.

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