BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Farmers work to bring in the harvest in a field south of Justice recently.
Westman farmers are making hay while the sun shines as a thunderstorm forecast by Environment Canada for today threatens to put a damper on the harvest.
"Everybody is trying to beat this rain," said Elmer Kaskiw, a farm production adviser with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives in Minnedosa.
Producers have logged long hours recently with many completing or nearing completion harvest of cereals and canola.
Kaskiw said that’s positive news as a reduction of sunlight and heat are becoming more and more a factor for crop left standing.
"The days are so much shorter right now and it takes quite a while for the crop to dry down," Kaskiw said. "Even the last stuff that has been harvested, the moisture levels have been fluctuating and it really toughens up overnight and reaches levels where guys are questioning storage."
Due to the late start and intermittent showers that slowed progress, some crops will be combined above safe storage moisture levels. While tough grain will fetch a lower price on the market, Manitoba is still poised to set record highs in crop production.
Canola production is expected to increase to 2.6 million tonnes, an increase of 24.5 per cent over last year, according to Statistics Canada — the result of a 44.8 per cent jump in average yield.
Wheat production is expected to rise by 15.5 per cent, barley and oats could increase by 10.9 per cent, while corn will actually fall slightly nationally.
North of Brandon, some soybeans are still green as higher moisture content has helped — or hurt depending on how you look at it — the crop tolerate brief frosts.
"We need some good hard frosts on the soybeans to get them to a point where they can be harvested," Kaskiw said.
Yields across the southwestern region of the province have been average to good, with some areas reporting record numbers. However, higher yields have made way for lower protein levels in grains. The bumper crop will also force farmers to take a longer look at nutrient levels in the soil heading into fall.
"We try to walk that fine line between putting enough nitrogen on to maximize yields and protein, but you can’t put too much on or the crop goes flat on you," Kaskiw said, adding nitrogen levels could be significantly lower where high yields are being recorded.
Often, nutrients are added during spring seeding, but Kaskiw said crops such as soybeans, peas and canola are susceptible to seed burn and reduced germination if too much fertilizer is present. And as those crops become ever more present, so too is the potential for nutrient deficits.
The most recent rain that shut down harvest did, however, provide a window for producers to get a jump start for next fall.
"We had a chance to get a fair bit of early canola off and once it started to rain guys jumped all over it and seeded quite a bit of winter wheat," Kaskiw said.
That should help manage weed resistance and spread the workload next spring.
When harvest does finally wrap up, there will be a big push to get many fields fertilized with anhydrous ammonia.
"Producers will try to get as much as they can this fall because as we saw this year with the late start to spring seeding, every day makes a big difference," Kaskiw said. "Any time you can save time and do something in the fall, you want to get it done."
With most flax still standing, Mother Nature will play an important role down the homestretch.
"It’s been a really good year and if we can get through this rain and get another shot of warm weather to get whatever remaining crop is left out there then guys will be happy," Kaskiw said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 11, 2013