Prairie crops in great shape

Rain at the right time in many areas has produced fields of green: barley, field peas, lentils, fababeans, flax and forages are doing well, although disease threatens peas and lentils. | File photo

The potential exists for a western Canadian bumper crop barring significant, widespread weather problems in the second half of the growing season.

Satellite images show that crop vegetative health is either higher or much higher than normal across the prairie region.

“The bulk of Western Canada is looking very good at this point,” said Gordon Reichert, senior scientific adviser for Statistics Canada’s Remote Sensing and Geospatial Analysis Section.

The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) map is light green or dark green for almost the entire region indicating a beautiful crop is on the way.

It is an almost identical-looking map when he compares this year to last year and even to the record-shattering 2013 crop.

Reichert says those kinds of maps generally correlate with big-yielding crops.

“But it’s still mid-season and anything can happen,” he added.

Bruce Burnett, weather and crop specialist with G3 Canada, puts little faith in NDVI maps at this point of the season, with two months left until harvest begins.

“Is it a bumper? I don’t know,” he said. “It’s too early to tell to be honest.”

What he does know is that the crop is in much better shape than it was last year at this time.

“Generally speaking, all of the crops look pretty good,” he said.

They are looking so good that the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan felt compelled to issue a news release warning the railways about what could be coming.

“We may be only 30 to 60 days from harvesting a significantly larger than normal crop,” said APAS president Norm Hall.

He worries that Canada’s two national railways have been laying off employees and leasing engines to the United States.

Hall wants them to make sure they have enough workers and horsepower remaining to handle a potentially huge crop. The railways were caught off guard by the size of the 2013 crop.

Daphne Cruise, regional crop specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, said the crop has the potential to rival the bin-busting 2013 crop.

Canadian growers harvested 97 million tonnes of grains, oilseeds and pulses that year, up from 77 million tonnes in 2012 and 80 million tonnes in 2014. However, Cruise added that things can change in a heartbeat if there is too much rain or too much heat at the wrong time in July and August.

She also noted that there could be some serious disease issues if the wet weather continues.

Harry Brook, crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture, said there is potential for a bumper crop.

“In general, almost all the crops are looking fabulous,” he said.

“There is quite a bit of humidity. We’ve got good water in the soil. We’ve got tremendous growing conditions for the crops.”

Pam de Rocquigny, cereal crops specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, was a little more muted in her assessment of the 2016 crop.

“We’re seeing quite a range across the province,” she said.

There are portions of the province that are too wet and other areas that are dry.

“In areas where the crop is established well, things are looking favourable for sure,” said de Rocquigny.

Burnett estimates the prairie crop is seven to 10 days ahead of normal development, significantly reducing the risk of fall frost damage.

Alberta’s hay crops received some frost but they are vastly improved compared to the 2015 crop.

“It’s miles better that it was last year,” said Brook.

“There’s a good crop coming and there’s enough moisture in the soil now too that there should be some re-growth.”

Cruise said there is potential for a big first cut of hay in Saskatchewan, but quality concerns are emerging.

“If we keep getting rain that’s not good in the haying season,” she said.

De Rocquigny said hay yields are average to above average but farmers are having trouble baling due to the wet weather and high humidity.

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