The recent warm weather has advanced crops and the harvest of some winter wheat crops is underway according to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture’s weekly Crop Report.
“Farmers are swathing their winter wheat harvest, a few guys are desiccating and are going to straight cut their winter wheat, there will be combines rolling mid-next week,” said Dale Paslawski, a Cedoux area farmer.
Paslawski is optimistic about this year’s crop, expecting some excellent yields. “This is probably one of the better crops I have grown in a long time.”
He expects canola yields in the 40-60 bushel per acre range, durum yields in the 55 bushels per acre range, and barley in the 80 bushels per acre range, among others.
At this point storage may become a problem for some farmers, with Paslawski looking at expanding his grain storage capacity and expecting the area’s grain terminals to be packed full.
“The early seeded crop looks very good,” said Elaine Moats, regional crop specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture. “The crops that we are starting to see being harvested include winter wheat, and some of the crop that was seeded in mid-April is also getting ready to be swathed or combined.”
“The fall rye is a little slower coming in than the winter wheat but it will be coming quickly. One of the things about fall rye is that the straw stays very wiry until it is fully mature, so you can’t rush fall rye,” said Moats. “Even if the seed looks ready to be swathed, if you swath the rye crop too quickly it makes it very difficult to handle the material going through the combine, so you tend to wait a little longer to get in there and swath it.”
Later seeded crops are showing signs of crop stress due to heat, wind, disease and insects, but, overall, the crops are in good condition.
“The heat has allowed the crop to jump ahead in terms of growth and it’s maturing, which is a good thing,” said Moats. “In some cases there isn’t the moisture or the fertility needed to handle the heat stress, so in some cases we are seeing some loss in yield in terms of floret blasting.”
The southeast region also received rainfall last week that ranged from trace amounts to 39 millimetres in the Weyburn area. A storm cell that passed through the area during the week resulted in some damage.
“I have seen some crops that were severely lodged where the wind was most severe. Some of the crops had a considerable amount of rain and good moisture this year, so there is some lodging, particularly on the cereals,” said Moats.
Although heavy rains and strong winds have lodged many cereal crops, growing conditions are ideal in most of the region.
Some canola crops have also been heavily affected by aster yellows. “Aster yellows is a disease that is spread by leafhoppers, “ said Moats. “These leafhoppers tend to blow in with winds from the south and they may carry the disease.”
Aster yellows affects the growth of the plant in a hormonal way, with flowers becoming distorted. Moats said the disease is largely in canola and flax, not usually being seen in the latter.
Topsoil moisture conditions in the region are rated as 18 per cent surplus, 69 per cent adequate and 13 per cent short. Hay land and pasture moisture is rated as eight per cent surplus, 77 per cent adequate and 15 per cent short. In crop district 2B, 50 per cent of the cropland has surplus moisture, while crop district 2A indicated that 25 per cent of the cropland is short moisture.
Livestock producers in the southeast have 87 per cent of the hay crop cut and 74 per cent baled or put into silage. Hay quality is rated as 11 per cent excellent, 81 per cent good and eight per cent fair. Some alfalfa stands are severely damaged by alfalfa weevils.
Bertha armyworm larvae counts have been low, but producers will continue to scout their fields with reports of spraying to the north of Weyburn.
Moats also noted that farmers may be seeing a different type of caterpillar in their crops, the zebra caterpillar. “They have bands on their sides that run up-and-down, as opposed to being lengthwise, and, as the name implies, they are black and white. They may also have some yellow striping running lengthwise down their back,” said Moats.
Although the caterpillars may look like they will feed voraciously on the crop, they are often only in localized patches. On the whole they won’t lead to a lot of damage and likely won’t require spraying.
Farmers are busy finishing haying, controlling insects and disease in crops and getting ready for harvest.
“Harvest is going to be a bit of a concern this year because there will be quite a hard push to get the crop off when its time,” said Paslawski. “People are going to have to watch their driving on the highways — including farmers — because farmers are going to push to get this crop off in time.”