Farmers Glad 2010 Is In The Rear-View Mirror

This is one year that almost every farmer says they’re glad to see finally at an end.

Just about the only good part of the year has been in September and October, and it shows in the quality and quantities of most crops. Now that most are off, you can see the weedy patches in the low spots that didn’t dry out all summer. Corn is being harvested for silage, but most crops are short and ragged-looking.

The south seems to have the province’s latest harvest this year, but it’s hard to get a clear picture of any crop situation because farmers and buyers have been so busy.

There are some reports of good yields in southern Alberta, with peas appearing to have done well and canola about average, said Ken Coles, manager of the Southern Applied Research Association.

Wheat yields are good, but with some significant quality issues.

“It’s been a tough year, but it’s worked out,” said Coles. “It could have been so much worse.”

Cereal crop quality is lower than usual, according to Tim Baranyk, Canadian Wheat Board rep for southern Alberta.

The biggest factor was how far along the crop was when frost hit, he said. Some crops were green, only at the dough stage, and were downgraded to feed. Some crops that weren’t delayed as much sprouted, while others were damaged by mildew and weathering. Many wheat samples from irrigated areas showed fusarium damage.

“Instead of 1s and 2s, samples we’re seeing are grading 2s or 3s or feed,” said Baranyk. “Most of the durum is grading 4s or 5s.”

However, some farmers harvested excellent crops of winter wheat.

“Things are not looking as bad as they might,” says Baranyk. “In June, it looked as if we’d have a global wheat glut. But Russia is out of the global feed market, and corn is substantially higher than it was. And, it seems there’s not a lot of barley available. We’ll be able to market into the global feed markets.”

Baranyk said it’s still too early to know how prices will turn out.

“But returns won’t be spectacular. We’d be comparing apples and oranges if we compared prices for our usual high-quality, high-protein wheat to this year’s crop,” he said.

“There’s not a lot of grain movement and very few big deliveries. We’re getting closer to a good composite picture, but we’re not there yet.”

Maltsters may be accepting barley they wouldn’t normally accept, because many samples of designated barley are showing signs of germination (chitted) and staining.

Beans are very sensitive to cold wet conditions and Owen Cleland of Viterra’s bean division said 2010 is the worst year he’s ever seen.

“I’ve never seen farmers so down in the mouth,” he said. “We lost 9,000 acres to drowning, most of it too late to re-seed. Then we lost another 1,500 or 2,000 acres to frost in fall.

“At Bow Island, we had only six days above 30 C – there just wasn’t enough heat for crops to progress. Plants set pods and they didn’t fill. And, instead of our usual three weeks or so of mould susceptibility, we had a six-week mould period. The risk didn’t end ’til frost.”

Cleland predicted bean yields would be 1,700 to 1,800 pounds per acre, instead of the usual 2,100 or 2,200 pounds. Quality is down, too, and Cleland said he expects most of it will have to be cleaned and sorted at least twice.

“The optical sorters will save our butts this year,” he said.

Sugar beets have done better then in 2009, when 7,000 of the contracted 30,000 acres were left in the ground because of frost damage.

“We’re a lot happier than we were this time last year,” said Andrew Llewellyn-Jones of Rogers Sugar.

Most of the crop has been delivered and yields are averaging around 20 tonnes per acre with fairly good sugar levels.

Yields aren’t great because a lot of plants drowned out in spring, said Llewellyn-Jones. However, beets can keep on growing into mid-October before growth and sugar plateau, so crops were able to take advantage of the warm fall weather.

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“There’s not a lot of grain movement and very few big deliveries. We’re getting closer to a good composite picture, but we’re not there yet.”

TIM BARANYK

CANADIAN WHEAT BOARD REP FOR SOUTHERN ALBERTA

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