Sask. harvest progress stalls at 18 percent complete

Harvest operations across Saskatchewan are now 18 percent complete, according to the most recent provincial crop report released this morning by Saskatchewan Agriculture.

That’s well behind last year at this time, when nearly 60 percent of the crop was already in the bin. The province’s five-year average for this time of year (2014-18) is 43 percent complete.

Saskatchewan harvest operations ground to a halt earlier this week following widespread rain that delivered precipitation in amounts ranging from half an inch or more in central and northern grain growing areas to two inches or more in the province’s southern grain growing areas.

For the remainder of this week, unsettled weather, a chance of showers and poor drying conditions across the province will likely rule out any significant harvest progress for at least a few days in some areas, and more than a week or more in others.

Weather-wise, a gradual clearing trend is expected over the next two to three days, followed by sunshine and day-time highs in the low 20s.

But with most of their work remaining and days growing short, farmers will need warm temperatures and clear, sunny skies for the rest of September if they hope to get this year’s crops off the field in a timely manner.

According to Saskatchewan Agriculture, this year’s harvest is most advanced in the province’s southwest region, where 31 percent of the crop is now combined. The southeast region has 24 percent combined and the west-central region is 18 percent complete. The east-central and northeast regions have eight percent combined while the northwest region has seven percent.

A full version of the provincial crop report can be found here.

Regardless of what the weather delivers in the coming days and weeks, the province’s grain growers will be behind the eight-ball heading into the second half of September.

With damp conditions persisting, the window of frost free days quickly coming to a close and more than 80 percent of the province’s crop still in the field, it is widely expected that a large amount of the 2019 crop will come off tough or damp.

Drying and conditioning expenses will increase the overall cost of production, leaving thinner margins and lower returns for the province’s grain growers.

Crop quality will take a serious hit.

Reports of chitting and sprouting in swathed and standing barley crops are common. A small amount of top-quality malting barley came off in late August but the vast majority of what remains will be prone to chitting and staining.

Standing and swathed wheat crops are also beginning to sprout in some areas, according to anecdotal reports from growers in the province’s southern and eastern growing regions.

It remains to be seen what impact recent rain will have on overall wheat quality, but it is already likely that much of the province’s spring wheat crop will be downgraded, costing the province’s farmers tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in lost revenues.

In some areas, soggy field conditions could prevent any harvest activity for a week or more.

About 25 percent of the province’s crop is was swathed or ready to straight-cut as of Sept. 9, Saskatchewan Agriculture said.

On a crop-by-crop basis, 83 percent of fall rye has been harvested, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture, along with 79 percent of winter wheat, 66 percent of field peas, 63 percent of lentils, 28 percent of barley, 10 percent of durum, seven percent of spring wheat and four percent of canola.

An additional 36 percent of canola is swathed or ready to straight-cut, the Sept 9 report said.

Cereal crops across the province have been slow to mature and are still prone to frost-related downgrades that could cause further economic losses for farmers.

In some parts of the province, it is estimated that as much as 25 percent of this year’s spring wheat crop or more is still at risk of frost damage.

Contact brian.cross@producer.com

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