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    Saturday, December 16, 2017
 Saskatchewan Agriculture has a group of 246 volunteer crop reporters from across the province. In 2009, there are eight crop reporters reaching their 10-year milestone of crop reporting; 10 reaching 15 years; 11 reaching 20 years; eight reaching 25 years and four reaching 30 years of crop reporting.
Congratulations!!

Saskatchewan farmers faced many challenges during the 2009 farming season but still managed to take off an average to above-average crop, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture's final year-end Crop Report.

The province experienced cool conditions in the spring, which were compounded in some areas by dry conditions. Seeding operations began in the southwest by the third week in April, and by June 1, 95 per cent of the province's crops were seeded. Crop development was behind normal for much of the growing season due to cool weather.

The growing season remained fairly cool until September, when warm weather allowed the crops to mature quickly. The wet month of October prevented  many farmers from completing their harvest until November.

Harvest started in the southwest at the end of July with the swathing and straight-combining of winter wheat and fall rye. Due to the unusual growing season, many crops matured unevenly, making it hard to make management decisions, such as when to start desiccating or swathing.  Little harvest progress was made during the month of October, but by November 24, 99 per cent of the harvest was complete.

Provincially, overall crop yields were above the 10-year average, despite the fact that winter wheat yields were slightly below the 10-year average. The quality of most crops was average to above-average. Most of the crop downgrading was caused by weathering and insects.

Forage yields throughout the province were below average, although quality was rated as generally good.

Precipitation/Moisture

The November 2008 Stubble Subsoil Moisture Map showed that much of the province had only poor to fair amounts of subsoil moisture, with pockets of very good moisture in the east-central regions and very poor moisture in the northern and west-central regions. By May, the moisture map looked a little better, due to the winter's snowfall. Most crop reporters reported good snowfall but little runoff.  However, moisture in the western half of the province was still rated as poor to fair. As of April 22, 18 per cent of the province's cropland was reported to have surplus topsoil moisture, 71 per cent had adequate and 11 per cent had inadequate moisture. 

It was a year of surprises when it came to the weather. April and May saw scattered but frequent precipitation throughout most of province, but very little rain fell in the west-central and northwestern regions where it was needed the most. The first week in June found some rain falling in the west-central region, improving topsoil moisture conditions for some farmers, although others continued to wait for moisture that ultimately did not come in time to rescue the crop. Crop reporters indicated some farmers were terminating their crops in order to save nutrients and moisture for the next year.

Much of the province received a significant amount of rainfall during the week of June 16 to 22, with some areas receiving above 30 mm of moisture. The rain was particularly welcome in the northwest, which had been pretty dry prior to this. Some areas in the northwest received more than 50 mm of moisture. Late-spring frost was a problem right into the month of June, when many areas of the province hit temperatures of -5°C. Reporters indicated that some farmers were reseeding canola and flax as the crop did not recover from the cold. Then there were a couple of weeks of warm weather toward the end of June. As the calendar flipped over to July, conditions started to cool. Another rainstorm passed over the northwestern, west-central and east-central regions. The storm dropped between 17 and 100 mm of rain across the west-central region.

Despite the rain, dry conditions continued to stress crops in the west-central region and for some crops it was just too late. Farmers then began to worry about an early-fall frost, as night time temperatures dipped close to freezing in some areas by the end of July. By the time August rolled around, the possibility of an early-fall frost was on everybody's minds, especially since most of the crop was two to four weeks behind in development.

September was generally warm and dry, and allowed many farmers to get into the full swing of harvest. Many areas stayed dry for the entire month, and others had isolated showers that did little to slow down harvest. October brought an entire month of rain and snow, halting harvest operations across the province. Many crops laid in the field for the entire month. Crop reporters indicated that many farmers harvested more in the first 10 days of November than they did during the entire month of October.

By the second week in November, the rain stopped and farmers were able to get back into the fields, although most crops were being harvested tough or damp, requiring drying and aeration. For many farmers, especially those in the north, November was when they accomplished the majority of their harvest.

Seeding

As of May 18, dry conditions in the west-central region had many farmers waiting for moisture and warmth before they continued seeding. Many crops across the province sat in the ground for two to three weeks before they emerged. 

By June 1, 95 per cent of the province's crops were seeded. By June 23, the majority of  crops had fallen behind normal in development. On average, 65 per cent of the fall cereals, 80 per cent of the spring cereals, 83 per cent of the oilseeds and 71 per cent of the pulses were behind normal in development.

Due to the cool spring, many weeds did not emerge until the crop came up, making weed control difficult. High winds and cool days made it difficult to apply weed control products.

Crop damage

Late-spring frost, cool weather, dry soil and gophers were the main causes of crop damage, with cutworms creating problems in the north and grasshoppers creating problems in isolated parts of the southern and west-central regions. There was scattered and isolated hail damage, although most Saskatchewan farmers were spared any major hail and thunderstorms in 2009. According to the Canadian Crop Hail Association's Final Hail Report released on October 30, payouts to Prairie farmers for crop hail claims totalled just over $76 million for 2009. This is a dramatic reduction from the record $341 million paid in 2008. Payouts in Saskatchewan hit a record low of $23.4 million. Last year, payouts were a record high $228 million. There was a total of 4,075 claims in the province in the 2009 crop year, compared to 21,000 last year.

From Provincial Insect/Pest Management Specialist, Scott Hartley:

Climatic conditions in 2009 were generally unfavourable to insect pests, resulting in low pest pressure for most crops. The main insect pests exceeding economic levels in 2009 were cutworms, pea leaf weevil (SW), cabbage seedpod weevil (SW), wheat midge and grasshoppers. Richardson's ground squirrels continue to be a serious crop and pasture pest, particularly during crop establishment in the spring.  Although the SW has been the most affected region in recent years, populations have increased in the west-central region thanks to dry conditions.

Grasshoppers.  Climatic conditions were not conducive to good grasshopper development early in the season; however, when temperatures warmed in July, there were a number of reports of late-season infestations in cereals, primarily durum. There were also reports of late-season infestations of grasshoppers consuming the green flax bolls.

Wheat midge. The slow accumulation of heat units in 2009 delayed the emergence of wheat midge. The dry conditions in some areas also delayed the development and emergence of the adult midge. The various factors (lack of precipitation, slow development, uneven crop maturity) resulted in considerable variation in wheat midge infestations. The need for spraying varied dramatically around the province. In most areas, wheat midge started to emerge during the second week in July, at least a week to 10 days later than most years.

Flea beetle.  Flea beetle populations have been gradually increasing over the past few years.  In 2009, there were some situations that required foliar sprays. In most cases, seed treatments were sufficient to control the beetles, but, due to the slow growth of canola and the extended period of insect feeding, the insecticide was ineffective in some situations. In addition, there were reports of late-season infestations as the new adult generation emerged and attacked podded canola. If spring conditions are warm and dry in 2010, this pest may become a greater problem in areas where fall populations were high.

Cutworms. Cutworms were the most common insect pest reported in June in much of the province. A number of different cutworms were noted, including both below-ground and foliar-feeding species. Due to the cool temperatures in 2009, feeding extended longer than in most years, with some damage continuing into early July. There are no reliable methods for forecasting cutworm populations, but they will likely be a problem in 2010, much like past years.

Diamondback moths. These moths were not a serious issue for producers in 2009, although the Canola Council of Canada reported isolated instances of spraying for the pest. 

Bertha Armyworms. Traps with pheromone lures were set up in about 200 locations in Saskatchewan as part of this year's Bertha Armyworm Monitoring Program. Like all other insects, the moths emerged later than in most years.  There were no reports of moths until late June. There were no high risk areas this year. There were reports by the Canola Council of Canada of foliar application of insecticides to control bertha armyworms in some fields.

Pea leaf weevil. First found in Saskatchewan in 2007, the pea leaf weevil continued its eastward expansion in the province, according to the June 2009 survey. The range of this weevil in Saskatchewan now extends from the Alberta border, east of Highway #4 (running north-south through Swift Current) and north to the South Saskatchewan River. Control can be achieved through either seed treatment or foliar treatment. Due to the recent introduction of this pest, seed treatments may not be cost-effective unless damage was noted in the previous year. Damage varies from field to field, with some serious infestations requiring foliar insecticide application.

Aphids. Aphids were a problem in pea crops later in the season (July and August). Control was generally unnecessary, given the maturity of the crops at the time of the infestation; however, there was wide variation in crop maturity across the province.

From Provincial Plant Disease Specialist: Faye Dokken-Bouchard:

In cereal crops, leaf spotting diseases were reported as usual in 2009. Preliminary examination of material from the Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) survey indicates that FHB was present in the province in 2009. Further analysis is in progress to determine regional and provincial FHB incidence levels, and most prevalent Fusarium species responsible for the disease this season. Crops were delayed in many areas due to poor seeding and harvest conditions, which may put crops at risk for sooty moulds and reduced quality.

In oilseed crops, white rust and downy mildew were reported on some mustard and camelina crops, while flax did not appear to have any major disease issues. Sclerotinia stem rot was observed in 70 per cent of the 152 canola crops surveyed for disease. Mean incidence of sclerotinia for the province in 2009 (nine per cent) was lower than in years with greater precipitation (1999, 2000, 2004: 13 to 17 per cent); however the results were affected by the fact that almost half of the survey took place in the drier west-central region, which had an incidence of only 1.7 per cent. The mean total incidence excluding the west-central region was 13 per cent. Despite the incidence of disease, yield losses due to sclerotinia are expected to be limited since over 50 per cent of the infections were on upper branches rather than main stem lesions. Mean incidence of blackleg for the province (1.7 per cent) was only slightly lower than the 10-year average, with the exception of 1999 (11 per cent) and 2002 (trace). The incidence of aster yellows was lower than the last couple of years whereas foot rot was higher. While the number of crops affected by alternaria black spot was lower than 2008, the mean severity (0.5 per cent) was higher than last year (trace) but still not enough to cause concern. Clubroot symptoms have not been observed on any Saskatchewan canola crops. In 2008, 30 soil samples received DNA testing and a bioassay, and one soil sample from west-central Saskatchewan tested positive for clubroot, despite the absence of symptoms in the crop. Additional soil samples were collected in the 2009 survey and clubroot testing is underway.

In lentils, some areas experienced mild-to-severe infestations of anthracnose, stemphylium blight, botrytis grey mould and sclerotinia white mould. Some growers will have to heed rotation recommendations due to the risk that sclerotinia white mould in 2009 poses for future broadleaf crops, including canola. In chickpeas, Ascochyta spores appeared early in the season and early symptoms were reported; however, the disease did not appear to develop or effect production in 2009.

A new field pea disease survey was conducted in 2009, with 141 crops surveyed across the province. Root rot was reported on 36 per cent of crops surveyed. Mycosphaerella blight was reported at trace-to-moderate levels on the upper canopy and at trace-to-severe levels on the lower canopy.  Eighteen per cent of crops surveyed had a disease-free upper canopy and five per cent had a disease-free lower canopy. Ascochyta pisi was reported on 44 per cent of peas surveyed in the southwest and on 13 per cent overall. Powdery mildew was reported on nine per cent, white mould on 21 per cent, Septoria pisi on 23 per cent and bacterial blight on four per cent of pea crops surveyed in the province. Downy mildew was found in the upper canopy of 26 per cent of the field peas and in the lower canopy of 30 per cent of the field peas, with severity ranging from trace-to-moderate in the upper canopy and trace-to-severe in the lower canopy.

Harvest/Production

Harvest started in the southwest around the end of July on fall rye and winter wheat. Due to the unusual growing season, many crops matured unevenly, making it hard to make management decisions, such as when to start desiccating or swathing.  The most productive week of the harvest was September 21 to 28, when 22 per cent of the crop was harvested. By the end of September, 76 per cent of the harvest had been completed. September's excellent weather allowed crops to mature, and harvest proceeded at a good pace.  It ground to a halt in October as the rain and snow kept farmers out of the fields.  Harvest advanced by a mere four per cent during the entire month of October. November brought better harvesting weather, but aeration bins and dryers were running constantly to deal with the crop that had been left out during October. By November 24, 99 per cent of the province's crops had been harvested, although most regions still had some flax left to combine. Yields across the province were above the 10-year average.

Due to the very late harvest, crop reporters are predicting that winter wheat and fall rye seeded acreages will be down 38 and 28 per cent, respectively, relative to last year. Most farmers were pleasantly surprised with the yields they got despite the late spring, cool summer and extended harvest season.

Quality

Grades of most crops were near or just above the 10-year average. Spring wheat, durum, rye, lentils and triticale grades were above average. Oats, flax, canola and peas grades were slightly above average. Chickpeas and winter wheat grades were average to above average. Mustard and sunflower grades were average. Barley graded average to below average.

Hay/Pasture and Winter Feed

Haying season began around the end of June. The cool spring and frost delayed the growth of hay and pastures through out the province. Many crop reporters recorded good quality hay but below-average yields in most areas of the province. By the end of July, 68 per cent of the 2009 hay crop had been baled or put into silage. Most crop reporters indicated there would not be a second cut of hay in 2009.

Pastures were slow to develop, mainly due to the cool spring and late-spring frosts. Much of the western and northern regions, as well as pockets in the east, were short or very short of topsoil moisture up until the middle of July. The rain of July and August helped pasture conditions throughout the province. At the end of May, 65 per cent of pastures in the province were rated in fair to excellent in condition, 27 per cent in poor condition and eight per cent in very poor condition. By the end of July, pasture conditions had improved somewhat: 33 per cent were in good condition, 47 per cent in fair condition and 17 per cent in poor condition. Because of the slow start to spring and the inability of livestock to graze stubble due to the slow harvest, many producers were feeding cattle early in the fall.

Winter water supplies for livestock are a concern for some livestock producers in the west-central and southwestern regions of the province. The livestock water supply is rated as inadequate in 24 per cent of the southwest and in 18 per cent of the west-central region. Across the province, 89 per cent of the livestock water supply is rated as adequate, while 11 per cent is rated as inadequate.

About three-quarters of livestock owners have adequate feed supplies for the winter months. In the west-central and the southwestern regions, six and 19 per cent of livestock owners, respectively, have inadequate supplies of straw, greenfeed and feed grain. These regions are indicating a 30 per cent inadequate hay supplies going into the winter season. The north east reports 27 per cent inadequate supply of straw.

Fall Moisture Conditions

As of Nov 3, 2009, 21 per cent of the cropland was rated as having surplus topsoil moisture, 60 per cent was rated as having adequate moisture, 15 per cent was short and three per cent was very short of cropland moisture. In the northeast, 74 per cent of cropland has surplus moisture, while 36 per cent of cropland in the west-central region is short of moisture. Eight per cent of hay and pasture land has surplus moisture, 67 per cent has adequate moisture, 19 per cent is short and six per cent is very short. Forty-four per cent of hay and pasture land in the northeast has surplus moisture; in the west-central reports, 36 per cent of hay and pasture land is short of moisture.

Saskatchewan Agriculture has released its Stubble Subsoil Moisture Map for November 2009. For the most part, the east side of the province has good to very good supplies of available soil water. The west side of the province ranges from good to very poor in available soil water.



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