Western Canadian farmers were struggling to finish their latest harvest in several years last week, with 10 per cent of the spring wheat crop lying in fields too wet to combine, a Canadian Wheat Board official said last Tuesday.
The wet, cold October has been a cruel ending to an unpredictable growing season, especially for farmers in northern farm regions of Saskatchewan. But overall, the Western Canada grain-growing belt is reaping an average-sized wheat crop with better-than-average quality, said Bruce Burnett, the CWB’s director of weather and market analysis.
The region’s harvest may be the latest in five years, Burnett said, adding that completion rates vary widely.
Five per cent of the durum crop and eight per cent of barley were still in the field, Burnett said.
At least 20 per cent of the overall canola crop and roughly 40 per cent of the oat crop in Saskatchewan were unharvested.
Farmers needed a two-week stretch of dry weather to dry out wheat enough to combine it, Burnett said.
That lengthy dry stretch looked unlikely last week, with weather patterns suggesting precipitation every three to four days, Burnett said.
“It doesn’t look like we’ll get all of the crop in this year,” he said.
The late harvest is unlikely to reduce the size of Canada’s wheat crop – last forecast at 24.58 million tonnes by Agriculture Canada on Oct. 8 – and overall quality will still be better than average.
Between 75 and 80 per cent of wheat should make the top two grades, Burnett said, compared with the typical level of 65 per cent.
On average, about 10 per cent of wheat grades at feed quality, but this year’s crop should have a slightly lower percentage of feed, Burnett said.
Barley appears to be of average quality.
About 20 per cent of canola remains unharvested, but that figure is as high as 30 per cent in some parts of Western Canada, said Denise Maurice, vice-president of crop production for the Canola Council of Canada.
Maurice is advising farmers to quickly harvest the crop – even in its wet condition – so they can manually aerate it later.
As of the previous week, Saskatchewan farmers had harvested 59 per cent of their oats, with another 33 per cent swathed, and they haven’t done much since, said Grant McLean, cropping management specialist for the provincial government. Many fields are too soft for tractors.