Saskatchewan Agriculture is buying the notion that this year’s harvest season could wind up as one of the worst in recent history.
“Only time will tell but certainly there are indications that yields are going to be well below normal in many cases,” said Shannon Friesen, crop management specialist for Saskatchewan Agriculture.
Dry conditions across Saskatchewan, including the Lloydminster region, have yet to let up since producers began planting crops at the end of April, beginning of May. Though showers late last week may have brought some relief.
For weeks, agriculturalists believed that enough occasional rainfall could sustain the crops until more substantial downpours arrived.
But those rainfalls never came, thanks to a drought of sorts, and now Friesen says that the minor precipitations seen throughout the province in recent weeks are no longer adequate.
“In some areas, it’s likely too late, as the crop is coming into maturity,” she said.
“For some of those crops that are still hitting out or they’re beginning to pod, rain will certainly help them fill and gain some bushel weight, which hopefully will then add to yield. But unfortunately, even getting rain in this last week was probably about a month too late.”
Still, major rainfall in the near future could turn producers’ fortunes. Friesen says that in the past, early dryness has been offset by lots of rain late in the season. However, she acknowledged that if the rain doesn’t come soon, it’ll be better off not coming at all.
“Usually in August, when harvest is coming along, we prefer the cap shut off, so to speak. Mostly because then we run into issues with heavy, wet straw, we can’t combine as early or as late as we’d like to,” she said.
“Quality can be affected, we get many diseases in the fall time when it starts to rain on some of those crops. I think we’ll take whatever we can get this year, but certainly we don’t need huge downpours now as much as we did a couple weeks ago.”
Also concerning to producers is the feed shortages for cattle. Friesen says the province has heard reports that producers are not only travelling long distances to secure supply, but are also having to pay premium prices to obtain the feed once they get there.
“In some cases, if they cannot afford it or they don’t have enough, there’s even talk of actually selling some of their cattle off,” she added.
Friesen also says that pastures are not as green as they usually are around this time of year and a shortage of bales is widely expected.
As a small consolation, Friesen says that pulses, which have suffered over the last few years due to the wetness, are finally able to thrive under these dry conditions. Others, especially canola and certain cereals, aren’t so lucky.