Tour finds above average crops in Saskatchewan, Manitoba

Fields were in bad shape near Winnipeg and then got better as tour moved into southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan. BY ROBERT ARNASON, WINNIPEG BUREAU

Timing is everything.

In the third week of June, 50 to 100 millimetres of rain fell on most of southwestern Manitoba, including Nathan Beernaert’s land near Hartney.

The precipitation came at nearly the perfect time for crops.

Five weeks later, in late July, Beernaert was feeling optimistic about spring wheat and canola yields in the region.

“The majority of the fields, wheat hasn’t seen any kind of setback; really other than some moderate drought conditions,” he said the afternoon of July 30, on a 26 C and sunny day south of Hartney. “We’ve had a lot more moisture at the right timing.”

It’s rarely a good idea to count yield before it’s in the bin, but spring wheat yields on Beernaert’s farm look promising.

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Many growers south of the Trans-Canada highway in southwestern Manitoba could hit 60 to 70 bushels per acre this year.

“The crops were a lot better than I had anticipated,” said Alyssa Mistelbacher, market analyst with FarmLink Marketing Solutions.

“Particularly around that Souris region, they potentially could have record crops for their wheat…. The farmers we spoke to were quite impressed with that.”

Mistelbacher and other FarmLink representatives led the Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan leg of the Grain World crop tour, held July 30-31 across the Prairies. The tour group (of about 10 people) stopped at more than 25 fields to estimate the yield of cereal crops and check the status of other crops.

The tour began on a depressing note, with a below-average wheat field and a poor canola crop near Winnipeg.

Conditions were extremely dry this spring in much of eastern and central Manitoba and crops took a hit. FarmLink employees estimated the wheat yield for the Winnipeg field at 35 bu. per acre.

From that low point, the crops improved as the tour group travelled south and west. Wheat fields near Lowe Farm, Somerset and Baldur looked much healthier, with yield estimates of 50 to 60 bu. per acre and higher.

South of Winnipeg, on a field near Glenlea, the wheat crop on Tyler Bartmanovich’s farm should produce more bushels than 2018.

“This year, we’re hoping to do 10 bushels better,” he said, noting his spring wheat produced 50 bu. per acre last year.

About 500 kilometres west, wheat crops around Weyburn, Sask., may also yield more than 2018. For instance, FarmLink employees estimated that a durum field south of Weyburn will produce 60 bu. per acre.

Overall, spring wheat yields in the region around Weyburn should be above average, likely in the 50s, said Howie Mercer, FarmLink marketing adviser in southeastern Saskatchewan.

That’s surprising, considering the region was dry in spring and then 150 to 200 millimetres of rain fell in late June and early July.

“Out this way, probably eight to 10 (inches, or 250 mm),” Mercer said, standing in a wheat field about 15 km northeast of Weyburn.

“In some areas the wet was just enough. And in other areas they got pummeled with four and six inch (100 and 150 mm) rains.”

While cereals were good to excellent in much of Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, canola was a mixed bag.

“The canola is highly variable. Ten miles (16 km) apart the crop was completely different,” Mistelbacher said.

A substantial chunk of the canola in southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, maybe 25 to 33 percent, was still flowering as of July 30.

That’s later than usual, probably because of poor germination in May and a slow start to the growing season.

As well, a percentage of the crop was re-seeded in early June.

“There is a lot of canola that got re-seeded because of cutworms, flea beetles and (frost). A lot of it is in full flower,” Beernaert said, adding his canola was still in bloom.

That’s concerning because late July and early August usually brings the hottest temperatures of the summer. Days of 30 C can shorten the flowering period and reduce the number of pods per plant.

There is also the risk of frost in late August and early September.

“It’s very late. Full bloom looks great but it is now faced with a frost potential,” Mercer said. “People that didn’t re-seed … it looks like an average crop, but it’s not above. The plant population (isn’t there).”

Canola fields in southeastern Saskatchewan and parts of southwestern Manitoba should have enough moisture to make it to harvest.

However, in other parts of Manitoba, many canola crops could use 25 to 50 mm of rain to reach full yield potential.

“Two words — time and moisture (for canola),” said Robert Whyte, vice-president of oil risk management with Ventura Foods, a firm that supplies sauces, dressings, oils and other products to restaurants and the food industry.

“We definitely need some time (without a frost) and definitely need some moisture.”

Riley Anderson, who farms near Morris, Man., doesn’t know what to expect from his canola crop.

It could be 35 bu. per acre or it could be 70.

He’ll soon find out.

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