Season falls short of expectations - ag fieldman
Higher crop prices, good rainfall positives of year
It looked like a promising start to the growing season, but insects and disease took a toll on crops this year, according to the County of St. Paul ag fieldman Dennis Bergheim and assistant ag fieldman, Keith Kornelsen.
“The growing conditions in July were excellent,” said Bergheim, noting a great combination of heat and humidity saw fields in the area looking “lush.” But a spell followed that saw hot and dry conditions, with August bringing in infestations that affected outcomes.
“The yields are not what they expected. Last year’s results were better,” said Bergheim. Last year, people were getting as much as 60 bushels an acre, with 40 to 50 bushels the norm. While there was an expectation of getting 45 bushels an acre this harvest season, some producers are likely seeing half that much yield and will only collect 20 to 25 bushels an acre, said Kornelsen, adding this is of course only the case for some farmers.
For St. Vincent-area farmer Marc Leroux, the story was better. “For us, we’re going to have a nice average year,” says Leroux, adding, “The bins will be full.”
Leroux was spending many long days in the field with his dad, Georges, and brother, Roger, last week, working on getting the crops off the ground and into the bins. The family farms about 4,200 acres, consisting of barley, wheat and canola.
He too experienced many of the issues that other area farmers saw this season, with lots of insects and weather challenges, although, he counts himself lucky that much of the severe weather missed his crops and he was able to spray for bugs on time.
“We were fortunate,” says Leroux, adding, the warm and humid weather did result in more fungicides being sprayed in the area as a whole.
This year, bertha armyworms were seen in force in August, which had a big effect on canola, particularly. “St. Paul was the hotspot,” said Kornelsen, noting that areas surrounding the town seemed to see a fair bit of infestation. Lygus bugs were also an issue, though not as prevalent as bertha armyworms, while a few farms in the Mallaig-area also dealt with the issue of hail. One producer, they note, had a “100 per cent crop wipeout” due to hail.
Diseases were seen in cereals, with heat and humidity being causing factors; Bergheim notes he can’t recall a season with such constant humidity, where nearly every day saw some rainfall.
With so much invested in farming, producers can go from prosperity to poverty after a single devastating season, says Kornelsen, with Bergheim adding, “It’s big business now. One bad year, you’re in the tank.”
But there was much to be glad about, including higher crop prices this year, particularly for the always popular canola, they say, with drought in key farms in the United States and lower yields across Western Canada factors in higher prices.
When crops are worth more, it makes sense to spend more money to protect them, says Leroux. He adds that with the Canadian Wheat Board changes taking place this year, he will be looking to market his cereals on the open market, which he believes is a good thing. Farmers can still sell to the wheat board, but now have more choices, says Leroux.
Another positive of this year is that there was none of the devastating effects of former years of drought, Bergheim said, recalling the “brutal” drought conditions of 2002.
“Hopefully we never see that again,” Bergheim muses. The last three years have seen a wetter cycle, but one never knows what kind of weather conditions to expect, he notes, adding, “It’s part of the game of farming.”
As of last Tuesday, Kornelsen and Bergheim were predicting harvesting in the County of St. Paul would likely be about 60 per cent complete, assuming conditions stayed hot and dry.
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