BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
A crop of wheat begins to mature in a field south of Justice recently. One Westman farmer remembers many years when winter wheat was off by the beginning of August.
Mother Nature is playing tricks with Westman producers keen to get in — and stay in — the fields this harvest.
Scott Mowbray, who farms near Cartwright, said he’s about halfway through cutting winter wheat, but a short-term forecast of rain for several days could mean the machinery stays in the shop for a while.
"If the forecast holds, it could be late next week before we’re back in the fields," Mowbray said Wednesday. "Then you start getting a little concerned about losing quality."
Mowbray had just returned from checking the moisture levels in his winter wheat crop — a measurement that came up 22 per cent, well above the industry standard of 14.5 for safe storage.
"It’s still too tough," he said. "There’s no chance of it going today."
While it has been hot for several weeks, Mowbray said the conditions haven’t been ideal to dry grains.
"You really need all three to get everything to dry properly —you need heat, low humidity and wind," Mowbray said. "It seems like the last two weeks, we’ve been able to get one of three, and occasionally two, but never all three."
The rain won’t help the harvest cause, either.
Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch for most of southwestern Manitoba, with forecasters expecting two waves of storms to track through yesterday afternoon.
Mowbray thought most of the rain would track northeast of Cartwright, but before the interview ended, it had began drizzling at his farm house.
"I’m trying not to watch the radar, but at the same time you can’t avoid it," he said.
The last number of years producers have been caught by wet weather at harvest, he said.
He remembers many years when winter wheat was off by the beginning of August or by the long weekend at the latest.
As for the long-term forecast, the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting several cool, wet spells through the months of September and October on the Prairies.
Mowbray’s farm isn’t set up with any crop-drying equipment and he said it’s a technique that isn’t used much in the area due to what is usually good harvest weather. He said crop drying is more reserved for areas of the northern Prairies or in southeastern Manitoba, where a lot of corn is grown.
While some producers had trouble moving grain this year, and in some cases still have grain in the bins, Mowbray said they found other avenues to market their grain and canola.
He took several loads of canola to a crusher in Hallock, Minn., which is less than three hours away from Cartwright. And he moved grain south to Langdon, N.D., which is even closer.
According to the provincial Crop Report issued earlier this week, disease is high in areas south of the Trans-Canada due to high moisture levels.
"Winter wheat harvest began in some areas of the region; quality and yields are poor. Fusarium damaged kernel levels are ranging from five to 20 per cent, and test weight is low."
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Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 21, 2014