Farmers prepare for bumper crop

Western Canadian farmers are poised to harvest a bumper crop if the weather holds, say analysts.

Neil Townsend, chief market analyst with FarmLink Marketing Solutions, said there is staggering potential in the fields this year, especially for cereal crops.

FarmLink is forecasting record-shattering yields for wheat, oats and barley after conducting a two-week-long, Prairie-wide crop tour of more than 1,000 fields that ended on July 31.

“Wheat was the real knock-your-socks-off (crop),” he said.

FarmLink walked more than 300 wheat fields in the three Prairie provinces.

“We never counted a field below 55 bushels an acre, so pretty amazing,” said Townsend.

The firm is forecasting a Prairie-wide average of 60.5 bushels per acre for all wheat, excluding durum. That would destroy the previous record of 53.1 bu. per acre set in 2013.

The barley crop is expected to come in at 82.3 bu. per acre, which would be 10 bu. per acre higher than the bin-buster of 2016.

FarmLink’s oat estimate is a conservative 107 bu. per acre, far exceeding last year’s bumper harvest of 95 bu. per acre.

“If I were to present to you our actual average count on the oat fields we walked in, it would have been an obscene number that would scare people with how many oats are coming,” said Townsend.

All of the cereal and pulse crop yields came in anywhere from seven to 12 percent higher than FarmLink’s pre-crop tour estimates.

Durum is projected at 45.3 bu. per acre, peas at a record 47.4 bu. per acre and lentils at 26.6 bu. per acre.

The oilseed crops didn’t surprise to the same extent but the yields are still robust with a canola estimate of 42.9 bu. per acre, slightly higher than the 2016 record of 42.3 bu. per acre. That number could fall due to the recent heat wave.

MarketsFarm analyst Bruce Burnett did not conduct a crop tour this year due to COVID-19 concerns but his impression from observing fields and talking to farmers across the Prairies is that an above-average harvest is on the way — weather permitting.

“We could have a record if things go really well for us, but there’s still a long way to go before the end of this growing season,” he said.

Burnett’s spring wheat yield forecast is more conservative than FarmLink’s, coming in at 50.9 bu. per acre. He is forecasting 42.4 bu. acre for durum and 42.6 bu. per acre for canola.

His only concern is that crop development is behind normal in parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta where growers are going to need an open fall.

Burnett said Manitoba’s crops are in great condition with the exception of some fields on the western side of the province that received excessive rainfall.

“You can’t get 12 inches of rain in a day or two and not suffer the consequences,” he said.

He is somewhat concerned about the province’s soybean crop, which needs rain to assist with pod filling.

Townsend thought the crops in southwestern Manitoba bounced back from early-season flooding and anything north of the Yellowhead Highway looks fantastic.

He said Saskatchewan’s cereal and pulse crops are nothing short of amazing. Initially, he was a little concerned about lentils lacking the stress needed to get to the pod-setting phase of crop development but the recent heat wave should take care of that.

Crops in the southwestern portion of the province were stunning.

“A lot of people said best on record,” said Townsend.

Burnett said crops look “excellent” in eastern Saskatchewan, especially the cereal crops, although there are some areas that did not receive enough rain.

He agreed that crops in southwestern Saskatchewan look phenomenal but he has concerns about the pace of development in the northwest where there has been excessive rainfall.

Farmers have repeatedly reminded him that crops looked fantastic last year at this time as well but did not get harvested until spring 2020.

Alberta is a tale of contrasts.

“Southern Alberta is the real garden spot in Canada this year,” said Townsend.

Many growers in that region say they are poised to harvest the most bountiful crop they can remember.

However, crops east of Edmonton and in half of the Peace River region are suffering from excess moisture. Crops in the other half of the Peace region look surprisingly good, he said.

Burnett said many crops in the central, northern and the Peace River regions of Alberta have received 25 to 50 millimetres of rain a week since late May.

“That’s not a prescription for a great crop,” he said.

Yields could still turn out all right but he is concerned about delayed development. Growers in northern Alberta are hoping the first fall frost holds off until mid-September.

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