Harvest Turning Out “Not Too Bad” Across South

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After a year that’s had all the right kinds of weather at all the wrong times, southern Alberta’s harvest was approaching three-quarters in the bin last week. Some crops are much better than expected, others not so good, making averages around normal. Quality was a concern for all crops with the cool wet weather in July and August , but most look good.

Growers report disappointing yields in some winter wheat fields, while others, particularly those that were later, yielded very well – 65 to 70 bushels. “Everything seemed to depend on the stage of development a particular crop was at when rains came,” says Melissa Stanford, agronomist with Ducks Unlimited. Some crops in the south have been downgraded for sprouting. In central Alberta, yields haven’t been spectacular, but grain quality and protein have been good. Most farmers grew Bellatrix or Radiant, so they’ll have marketing options – either the CWB milling program or the feed or ethanol markets.

Stanford is already focused on next year. “We’re seeing interest in winter wheat from areas where people never could get started in winter wheat.”

She reports interest from areas that have not grown much winter wheat before, including the Peace.

“Once you’re in the winter wheat cycle, it’s easy to stay in it. Harvest starts earlier and you always have to stop combining for some reason – so you can seed some winter wheat. We’re seeing an overall upward trend because, on bigger farms it’s more important to spread the workload,” Stanford said.

GOOD CEREAL QUALITY

Spring wheat and barley yields vary, but quality is good. “All the hard red wheat we’re seeing is looking really good, all number one,” says Dave Seifridt, marketing logistics manager at Lethbridge Inland Terminal. “Durum isn’t a bumper crop, but decent, 50 or 60 bushels mostly and it’s grading one or two. The winter wheat that got caught in the hot, dry spell early in the year turned purple from lack of moisture then, as it ripened it caught the last rains, some had mildew and some sprouted.”

Seifridt says he has heard all sorts of numbers for canola. Some growers have had excellent yields, up to 55 bushels on dryland and a few crops under irrigation went over 70 bushels. People in the field are hearing much more mixed reviews.

“I’m hearing everything from the low 20s to the low 50s for yields this year,” says Monsanto’s Bruce McKinnon. “Yields are all over the map, but later-seeded crops seem to have done better. Under irrigation sclerotinia levels seem to have affected yields from high 40s to 70 or more.”

Peas have followed the same pattern. Tammy Jones of Alberta Pulse Growers says she has heard provincial yields from 15 to 68 bushels with the south generally faring better than other areas and yields mostly at the high end. Although peas were able to make the most of any moisture there was, the cool, dry start to the year made weed control very difficult and crops were short.

Quality seems good and peas may be one of few crops with good news on the price front. Jones says the current drop in prices is “temporary turbulence,” due to a change in regulations in India restricting the time merchants can hold crop in store at ports without significant fees. Predictions are that yellow food-quality peas will bring $6.

The bean harvest is going well with yields down somewhat, around 2,000 lbs. per acre, Jones said.

CORN AND BEETS

Monsanto’s McKinnon says corn is short, but it’s looking good. “The tonnage may not be there, but cob development came along amazingly since August 1st,” he said.

Sweet corn seems to have recovered from the cold start, but it was about two weeks later than usual.

The Cinderella crop this year may be sugar beets. A few fields in the Enchant area were hailed out and others were severely damaged, but most look very good. “We’ve budgeted for 23 tonnes, but I’m predicting 25 or better and I’m being conservative,” says Carrie Ross, Lantic Inc agronomist for Taber. “Some of our research plots have yielded 33 tonnes and farmer crops are usually just a little lower. But, not all areas are as good as this one. We had poor stands early in the year and some crops had crops that came up in three stages over 28 days. But, we had no weed competition with the crop. We used Roundup Ready beets for the first time this year and the crops look wonderful,” he said.

Ross thinks yields could be a record, better than 26 tonnes. There’s good news on the market front as well. The world price for sugar has been over 20 cents per pound recently, so it’s possible growers could receive as much as $50 a tonne for beets, better than the highest previous payment of $45. Along with record yields, that would put beets in a whole different light.

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