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Warmer weather helps Manitoba farmers catch up on harvest, wheat crops exceed expectations

Manitoba's farmers are reporting strong yields, as they caught up to past years' progress after a week of favorable temperatures.
Manitoba's farmers are reporting strong yields, as they caught up to past years' progress after a week of favorable temperatures. Dylan Williamson / Submitted

The warm weather this past week wasn’t just enjoyed by Manitobans looking to get a last taste of summer — the province’s farmers also took advantage, taking a big chunk out of what remains of Harvest 2020.

It came after a week of cold temperatures and overnight lows near freezing that stalled proceedings, but one ag expert says we’re back up to speed.

“We moved from 56 per cent harvest completion last week, and we now sit at 70 per cent completion across the province,” Dane Froese of Manitoba Agriculture explains. “So that puts us at our three-year average for the fourth week of September.”

Read more: Manitoba farmers excited to get back to harvesting with warm weather to end September

Froese says that completion percentage barely moved in the week previous, as the colder weather stunted the last bit of growth in a lot of fields.

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He says what’s coming off the fields now, though, looks pretty good.

“Quality is excellent in nearly all grains, with some exceptions in canola in soybeans where the frost touched down and made an impact — but those areas do seem to be limited so far.”

While spring wheat has been a bright spot, canola crops are leaving something to be desired.

Read more: Bumper crop: Manitoba advisory service predicts record-setting wheat numbers

“We typically lead Western Canada in terms of average yield, but this year we’ll see overall decreases,” Froese says. “We’re seeing yields in the 35-45 bushel an acre range there.”

Canola is a more susceptible crop, and this summer’s extreme heat took a toll.

“Excess moisture early on in the year, coupled with a lack of moisture later on in the year didn’t help. Canola plants were a little bit stunted as a result, and had some growth issues because they weren’t able to penetrate the compacted soil layer.”

“Protein numbers are up in spring wheat, despite having some disappointing yields in wheat and canola, the quality has been good.”

“We’re seeing yields range between 40 to 70 bushels an acre.”

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Froese says spring wheat has been one of this year’s hot crops, particularly in the Swan River valley area, where some farmers have reported yields as high as 90 bu/acre.

Read more: Southern Alberta cattle prices remain steady amid COVID-19 pandemic

It hasn’t been as smooth sailing for some of Manitoba’s beef producers, though — who are struggling to find late-season feed for their cattle.

“Those early September frosts tended to reduce the amount of grazing opportunity left in pastures, and limited some of the final hay cuts that could be made this year,” Froese says. “Producers are working with less available feed than they thought they might have this season, which was already reduced because of the dryness throughout the summer.”

Froese says producers who are looking for feed — or have a surplus they’re willing to sell — can use the Manitoba Hay Listing Service to connect with each other.