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Summing up the agricultural season


Manitoba Agriculture released its final crop report summary earlier this month, giving an overview of how the season went and how farmers were doing overall in the province.
The Northwest Region, which includes the Swan Valley, is reported to be near completion with the exception of a few acres where snow has halted operations.
The red spring wheat harvest in the region is generally complete with the average yield at 5 to 75 bu/ac. Grades range with 25 percent of the crop grading No. 1 CW, 50 percent grading No. 2 CW and the remainder grading lower. Grades appear to be lower than average this year with the inclusion of falling numbers.
The canola harvest is 99 percent complete in the region, yielding an average of 50-60 bu/ac. The quality of canola harvested is standard for the region with 90 percent of the crop grading No. 1 CAN and the balance No. 2 CAN.
Field pea harvest operations are complete with yields averaging 40 to 80 bu/ac and grading No. 2 CAN in the Swan River and Roblin areas. Soybeans are 99 percent complete with yields averaging 35 to 40 bu/ac; 80 percent of the crop is grading No. 2 CAN.
Lack of moisture was a common theme during the growing season with low precipitation during the optimum times.
In the spring, soil moisture was adequate for most of the region, but on some farms in the Swan River area, the 2018 harvest and field operations had yet to be completed, delaying seeding.
Seeding was well underway by mid-May, although conditions were challenging due to dry soils causing germination issues, as well as cool overnight temperatures and frosts.
Thunderhill area producer Darren Staples – who farms 4,600 acres of canola, wheat and peas – echoed the issues with the lack of moisture in the region.
“If there was more (moisture) in May and June, it would have been a whole different story around here,” he said.
“Anybody you talk to will say the same. People are disappointed with some crops, but (harvest) was average as a whole.”
Frost in the spring necessitated some reseeding, and the lack of precipitation stunted germination and crop establishment through to mid-June.
Part way through the season, periodic heavy downpours through the Roblin and Swan River areas replenished soil moisture.
Hot, dry conditions caused some pod abortion during flowering on canola, but yields and quality did not seem to be affected a significant amount. As the season progressed, crops in the region recovered to some extent, but issues with germination, emergence, frost, insects and dry soil conditions became visible and caused staginess in the crop. This variety of staging became a challenge for harvest.
As far as insects in the region, flea beetles continue to be an issue in emerging canola; there were diamondback moth larvae observed in fields around Swan River; bertha armyworm moth trap count numbers were in the uncertain range in traps around Swan River, Ste. Rose and Ethelbert and thistle caterpillars were observed on soybeans.
The dry season did reduce disease pressure and producers were able to limit the remaining impact due to timely and appropriate application of fungicides and insecticides to susceptible crops at the most beneficial stage.
The first fall frosts in Swan River came in early September, but the entire region had a killing frost in the first week of October.
Intermittent snow and rain showers caused challenges during the last month of the harvest, but Staples confirmed that he and other producers were able to work through it to successfully get their crop off.
Across the province, as of Nov. 12, 91 percent of the 2019 harvest was completed, with most of the crops still left out in the field either not grown or sparsely grown in the Swan Valley.
Currently, soil moisture conditions rated as average with areas on the western side of the region remain dry. Although challenged with a wet, snowy fall, much of the fall fieldwork is complete and fields are prepared for spring operations.
Throughout the grazing season, pastures were in fair to good condition but had seen more overgrazing through August and September in the Swan River and Roblin area. For the most part, going into fall, pasture moisture conditions were adequate.
For winter feed supplies, there is an adequate supply of straw and feed grains. Greenfeed yields were average; however, producers struggled to harvest late seeded crops due to poor drying conditions this fall.
Producers that rely on alfalfa grass hay based rations will need to source additional feed due to lower first cut hay yields and a minimal second cut taken. Corn silage harvest in this area was completed in October with average yields being reported.

Jeremy Bergen