Farmers back in the field

Farmers across the Prairies have begun harvesting again after many of them sat idle for more than a month.

Slight progress has been made in Alberta and Saskatchewan, according to the latest crop reports. The reports capture only the week of Oct. 9-16, when much combining wasn’t done because of unfavourable conditions.

Late last week and into the weekend, however, farmers were plugging away and getting off as much as they could. Temperatures were warm and skies were clear.

For some, there is now a sense of optimism that they might be able to get all the crop off this year, though it’s difficult to predict what may happen.

“Obviously there is a lot of happy farmers to have the weather that we have had compared to the last 40 days of doing nothing,” said Alberta Barley Commission chair Jason Lenz, who farms near Bentley, Alta.

“That prolonged cold wet spell really tested people’s patience.”

Lenz suspects he will be finished by the end of this week. Across Alberta, however, only 52 percent of all crops were harvested as of Oct. 16, well behind the five-year average of 90 percent.

The areas farthest behind in the province are in the northwest with 31 percent completion, northeast with 43 percent and Peace region with 45 percent. The central zone is 45 percent done and the south is 74 percent complete.

In Saskatchewan, harvest is further along with about 82 percent crops in the bin. The northern areas of the province have seen much larger delays (from 49 to 75 percent), though some farmers there are now optimistic that harvest will be completed.

“The weather is looking good,” said Larry Marshall, who farms near Shellbrook, Sask.

“People have been putting in long hours. We were pretty worried there, but now we are a lot more optimistic.”

In Manitoba, harvest is close to wrapping up. About 91 percent of all crops have been harvested as of Oct. 22, according to the crop report.

Harvest had been slightly lagging in the Roblin and Swan River areas, but favourable conditions have allowed farmers to make good progress. Canola is about 90 percent harvested in that region and soybeans are 85 to 90 percent done, said Nicole Clouson, a farm production extension specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.

Roblin area farmer Robert Misko said he’s made good progress and suspects his neighbours have, too.

“I hope everyone gets done harvest. They are trying their darnedest to do so,” said Misko, who is also a director with the Manitoba Wheat and Barley Growers Association.

Quality is expected to be affected by the previous cold and wet spell. The Saskatchewan and Alberta crop reports indicated that some cereals have sprouted. As well, there might be a higher green count in canola.

In Manitoba, the crop report said quality appears to remain good.

Going forward into the last week of October, forecasts are generally looking favourable for most regions. Crop specialists remain hopeful most of the crop can be harvested.

“We are very glad it’s returned to more normal fall weather,” said Shannon Friesen, a crop extension specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture.

“We always remain hopeful the weather will maintain itself.”

Alberta Agriculture crop specialist Mark Cutts said it’s tough to estimate how far along harvest will be by the second-last week of October but expects many farmers will be in a better position.

“I think we are getting the weather that was required, and I think everybody is knocking down as many acres as they can,” he said.

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