GrainsWest winter 2016 - page 10

had its moments, but overall it could have
been worse. A difficult growing season
that ranged from too dry to too wet, de-
pending on the region and the month, was
followed by a stop-and-go harvest season.
Overall, farmers report yields ranging
from slightly below average to excellent.
And going a couple steps further to the
Canadian and world markets, grain stocks
and prices appear to be holding steady, but
as of early winter there didn’t appear to be
any outstanding price performers, either.
One exception might be a stronger market
for some pulse crops.
The 2015 crop year was challenging for
Alberta farmers, as regional conditions
were all over the board. There appeared
to be a few weeks where general condi-
tions looked pretty bleak, but with timely
rainfalls, and as combines rolled, yields
weren’t as bad as many had feared.
According to Alberta Agriculture and
Forestry estimates, average spring wheat
and durum yields in the province were
40.4 and 36.9 bushels per acre,
respectively. Barley yielded 58.9 bu/ac on
average, while canola came in at 36.4 bu/
ac. For spring wheat and durum, these
numbers represent 86 and 85 per cent of
their five-year average yields. The reported
yield numbers for barley and canola equal
90 per cent and 95 per cent of their
five-year averages, respectively.
Nationally, Agriculture and Agri-Food
Canada reported that durum production
fell by nine per cent from 2014 levels to
4.74 million tonnes, and wheat (exclud-
ing durum) production saw a 12 per cent
decrease to 21.3 million tonnes. Despite
yield concerns in drought-stricken areas,
barley production is forecasted to rise by
seven per cent to 7.6 million tonnes due to
an increase in seeded acres. Lower yields
and a smaller harvested area decreased
canola production across the country to
14.3 million tonnes, a 13 per cent drop.
A sampling of farmers reported a range of
growing season and harvest conditions.
In southern Alberta, Josh Fankhauser of
Claresholm said that, after a dicey start
with too much moisture, yields were gen-
erally above average.
“We were extremely wet in 2014 and
that subsoil moisture carried over to
2015,” said Fankhauser, who, along with
family members, crops about 7,000
acres. “We had about three inches of rain
right after seeding, which put us into an
excess moisture situation again. We had
100 acres of canola that were completely
flooded out.”
But after the wet start, conditions dried
out and the moisture carried an excellent
crop through to harvest. “Our winter
wheat and spring wheat were above-aver-
age yields,” he said. “Harvest went quite
well. We had some rain, which down-
graded about a quarter of our production,
but we can blend that off for overall good
Near Stony Plain, just east of Edmon-
ton, Bryan Adam reported his yields were
generally below average. His growing sea-
son started out dry at the critical germina-
tion time, but then some timely rains later
in the summer brought the crops along.
“On our farm—and I heard other
reports too—the lower areas of the field
yielded pretty good, but once you went a
few feet up the slope it was pretty thin,”
said Adam, who produces barley, Canadi-
an Prairie Spring Wheat and canola. Slow
germination and uneven maturity also
presented a challenge. Every bushel of bar-
ley had to be dried, and in October he was
waiting for the green areas of the wheat
crop to mature before combining.
Overall, Adam said canola yielded about
40 bu/ac (compared to a more average
50-bushel yield). Barley, and likely wheat,
would yield about 50 bushels rather than a
more normal 75 bushels, he added.
Further north, in the south Peace River
region, Gerald Finster said he was sur-
prised at how well the crops did on his
farm near Valleyview.
Finster said they had good spring
moisture, which helped crops germinate
evenly. It then turned dry in June, but
timely rains in July at the head develop-
ment stage helped to produce above-aver-
age yields. “I’d say it was a combination
of timely rains and less disease pressure
that really contributed to the yield,” said
Finster, who produces wheat, barley, oats,
peas and canola.
Harvest was a bit challenging for Fin-
ster, as it seemed to rain “every weekend,”
which delayed him for a few days each
week. The straight-cut oats had to be
dried, and the wheat was combined at 16
per cent moisture and dried down through
aeration. Overall quality was quite good—
canola graded No. 1 and wheat came in at
No. 2, which is average for that area. Oats
and peas were good quality, too.
In the north Peace River region, Ron
Heck said it was a very dry year on his
farm at Fairview. “It was good in some
respects,” said Heck. “I’d say we were
about 1.5 inches of rain away from having
a bumper crop, but overall it was a very
dry year.”
Heck said there was about eight-tenths
of an inch of rain just around seeding in
early May, which helped with germina-
tion, but really spotty rainfall after that.
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