Moisture deficits hit Prairie crops, pasture and hay

A dry growing season has left Prairie farmers with variable crop yields and scrambling to make up for feed supply shortfalls.

Yields and quality

Saskatchewan yields are highly variable, from above average to well below, according to Allie Noble of the province's agriculture department.

With spotty rainfall this season, growers’ yields depended on whether or not their fields received adequate rain, she says.

Anecdotally, quality has been good so far, Noble adds.

Similarly in Alberta, yields are the worst in the province’s driest region, reports Alberta Agriculture. Southern Alberta yield estimates are only about three-quarters of five- and 10-year averages. Alberta Agriculture’s Mark Cutts predicts yields there will remain near those levels.

But yields in the much wetter Peace Region are at least a quarter above five- and 10-year averages.

The department also estimated quality for all crops so far harvested to be above their short- and long-term averages.

Meanwhile, in Manitoba, spring cereal yields have been better than expected and quality good.

“Disease incidents and severity were reduced because of reduced rainfall,” says Manitoba Agriculture’s Anastasia Kubinec.

Feed

Some crops in Alberta that may have been intended for combining have been harvested for silage or greenfeed, says Cutts.

“So that would pull some barley in and most likely some oats out of the grain end and switch them over to feed for cattle,” he says.

Inadequate rain affected pastures and hay production in all three Prairie provinces.

Inadequate rain affected pastures and hay production in all three Prairie provinces. Crop quality is scoring higher than crop yields.

“There are some areas in the southwest and southeast that are worried about hay and feed shortages, and this is due to a lack of moisture we’ve seen this year,” Noble says.

Manitoba farmers have been baling straw from cereals, canola and peas to produce more feed for animals, Kubinec says.

Frost

Frost damage was confirmed by Saskatchewan’s and Manitoba’s agriculture departments.

The effects of subzero temperatures are variable and dependent on crop type, as well as the level and duration of cold, says Kubinec.

For canola, the extent of damage is soon evident, but it takes longer to discern in soybeans, and even longer for corn, she adds.

“We’re going to get to a point here sooner than later when crops will be developed past the point where there should be any impact from frost,” Cutts says.

Bottom line

Crop quality is scoring higher than yields, while farmers compensating for feed deficits are turning to crops for silage and greenfeed and straw for bales.

Article by: Richard Kamchen