Below average crop on the horizon for Prairies

Yields are average to below average in all three provinces, but the quality of the crop has also been strong

Farmers in Western Canada are harvesting what will be a below average but top quality crop, say provincial crop specialists.

“Yields certainly are not what we would have hoped they would be,” said Shannon Friesen, crops extension specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture.

Yields for the winter cereals and pulses that have come off in the southern part of the province have been average to well below average.

Crops that farmers thought looked decent from the road turned out to be disappointing.

“Once they actually got into the fields they yielded much less than they were anticipating,” she said.

Even crops in east-central Saskatchewan, where there was ample rain, are not as good as normal.

Far better crops in the northwest and northeast will help offset the poor yields in the south, but Friesen is anticipating an average to below average crop when all is said and done.

She is particularly concerned about the canola crop.

“Canola has really taken a toll with a lot of the heat that we’ve had,” said Friesen.

She anticipates some pod shattering resulting from the heat damage.

Crop quality looks great, with little insect or disease damage.

Harry Brook, crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture, was succinct in his assessment of that province’s prospects.

“It’s not great,” he said.

Crops in the south are flat out “bad.” His rating improves to “fair” for the central part of the province. Crops in the northeast are average despite plentiful rains. The best crops are in the northwest and some areas of the Peace.

“We’re probably going to see a somewhat less than average crop this year, not drastically so on a provincial basis, but I think it will be significantly lower,” said Brook.

Canola fields don’t appear too bad, but he wonders if the seeds will look like pepper because there was no moisture to properly finish the crop.

Improved genetics have rescued the canola crop in the past.

“This will be a real test to see whether or not it truly has more ability to compensate for tough conditions,” he said.

Manitoba’s winter cereal and pea crops are off. Yields are wildly variable but in general average to below average, said Anastasia Kubinec, manager of crop industry development with Manitoba Agriculture.

Spring wheat yields range from 35 to 100 bushels per acre. She believes the province-wide yield will end up being average to above average.

The wheat crop has exceptionally high protein levels and extremely low fusarium damage.

Canola yields have been disappointing despite minimal blackleg, sclerotinia and insect damage.

However, Kubinec said that the crop that has come off so far was seeded early, missed out on timely rains and had some flea beetle damage. The later-seeded canola may turn out better.

Oat and barley crops are yielding well. Some of the oat crops have lower bushel weight, but the barley quality is excellent with low fusarium damage and good test weight.

“I have heard of quite a few guys saying they are getting malt, which is unusual for Manitoba,” she said.

The rest of Manitoba’s crops are showing signs of moisture stress and are prematurely ripening. It remains to be seen how they will turn out.

Statistics Canada’s latest satellite-based maps of vegetative health back up what the specialists are saying about this year’s crops.

There were a lot of brown tones on the map for the Aug. 12-18 period, indicating the crops are in worse shape than normal.

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