Timing Questions: Swathing and Pre-Harvest Aids

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Here are some timing considerations as harvest nears.

If swathing: Canola fields swathed at 60% seed colour change (SCC) on the main stem can yield 8% more than fields swathed at 30% SCC. That’s according to Canola Council of Canada research from the early 2000s. The yield difference could be even higher with lower plant populations because with fewer larger plants more of the yield will be in the side branches. Later swathing increases crop yield because side branches have longer to fill and average seed size for the whole plant is larger. The ideal is to swath when most (or all) side-branch seeds are “firm to roll.”

Tips on how to assess seed colour change.

If straight combining: The question is whether to let the crop dry down naturally (at this stage of harvest, we have time to wait) or to apply a pre-harvest spray. If leaning toward a spray, what is the goal with a pre-harvest application?

If weed control is the goal, assess the weed situation and crop stage before spraying glyphosate. It is critical to wait until seed moisture content is less than 30% in the least-mature areas of the crop before applying glyphosate. Applications made before the correct stage increase the risk of unacceptable residue in the seed. When making your assessment, here’s what to look for:

  • By waiting until 50 to 60% seed colour change in the least-mature areas of the field, growers can be confident seed moisture will be at less than 30%.
  • At this stage, seeds in the main stem will be green and firm to roll in the top third of the plant, mostly brown with some speckling in the middle third, and completely brown-black in the bottom third.

Once the crop is at that stage, assess the weed situation to see if a spray is warranted. Moderate to heavy infestations of annual or grassy weeds should be sprayed out. Perennial weeds could be left alone for a late fall application, which will likely provide better control.

If desiccation (crop and weed dry-down) is the goal for straight combining, this decision should wait until just before harvest – for two reasons. (1) With a lot of canola crops moving quickly toward maturity, harvest will not be as rushed and the crop should have lots of time to dry down naturally for straight combining. Desiccant spray may not be needed. (2) Diquat desiccant can’t be applied early anyway. Diquat application timing is 90% brown seed. At this stage, all but 10% of the seeds on the very top and outer most branches haven’t completely turned black or brown. See more timing tips for pre-harvest products.

Source: Canola Watch

StatsCan Numbers Don’t Ease Harvest Pressure

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Grain markets are all in the red as the complex continues to have a losing first week of September.

Wheat prices continue to be the worst-performer of the group as the bullish dynamic in Europe, the Black Sea, and Australia has seemingly been priced in, relative to a decent-sized crop coming off in Canada.

In Canada, the focus is again on quality… not quantity. On Thursday, StatsCan said that total wheat stocks for the period ending July 31 came in at 6.2 million metric tonnes (MMT). That was a 10% decrease from the same time in 2017 and 11% below the 5-year average.

We saw on-farm stocks increase by 15% year-over-year to 2.66 MMT (still 11% below the 5-year average of 5 MMT). In Alberta specifically, total wheat stocks are up 85% year-over year to 1.26 MMT. That’s also 44% more than the 5-year average of 872,000 MT held by Alberta farmers by the end of July.


This increase in total wheat on-farm inventories offset the 23% decline from last July in commercial stocks, which were estimated to be sitting at 3.5 MMT.

Worth noting is the strong increase in on-farm durum stocks in Alberta sitting at 260,000 MT. This is double July 2017’s on-farm inventories in Alberta and 5.5X more than the 5-year average of 46,000 MT.

Switching gears to production, on August 31st, StatsCan estimated total wheat production of 29 MMT in Canada, which would be down 6% year-over-year but 7% below the 5-year average. This includes spring wheat production in Canada of 21.6 MMT, down about 3% from the 5-year average and last year’s harvest.

For durum, the production number has been reduced to 5 MMT, thanks to yield falling to a significant low level of 30.6 bushels per acre.

However, early reports are that there is very high protein wheat (both spring and durum wheat) to be found across the country. Thus, more acres were planted this year into wheat,  yields and production are down. Yet, it looks like quality is going to be pretty good. From a global, macro perspective, this would likely offset any quality concerns coming out the Black Sea or Australia.

The bigger question being asked is how many acres will get harvested. Right now, Statistics Canada is saying that 98.4% of all Canadian spring wheat acres will get harvested. This is above the 5-year average of 97.4%. For durum, StatsCan is saying that harvested acreage will match the 5-year average of 97.9% of seeded acres getting combined. There is certainly a lot of doubts to these numbers, given some of the weather seen from August (dryness) through now (getting colder and wetter?).

Looking bigger, right now, there seems to be a lot of positioning for next week’s September WASDE from the USDA. There is some optimism for wheat prices to rebound on increased US export, but the truth is they’re tracking almost 1/3 behind last year’s pace (which wasn’t very good in its own right). Conversely, Canadian wheat exports (excluding durum) are tracking about 2% ahead of last year.

Simply put, the market seems to have priced in the somewhat bullish production estimates from StatsCan, but they’ve also accounted for a relatively neutral-to-bearish stocks report. Apart from the WASDE report on Wednesday, September 12th, we’ll also be watching for numbers in StatsCan’s satellite-based production estimates out a week later on Wednesday, September 19th.

Source: Alberta Wheat Commission

Harvested Crop Samples

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With harvest underway in Alberta, a reminder that a step to marketing is knowing the product that you have to offer. Neil Blue, provincial crop market analyst with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, looks at the importance of harvest crop samples.

“Producers should be taking samples of each load as the crop is placed into storage to create a representative sample for each bin,” explains Blue. “The goal is to have a sample that has the same characteristics as the large volume of product that it represents. Producers will then have a sample that can be used to shop around with various potential buyers.”

The samples should be stored in a sealed contained to identify the source bin. “This container should keep out rodents and insects and preserve representative moisture content to maintain sample integrity. Some grain companies provide zip lock bags just for this purpose, which in turn, could be kept in a larger sealed container,” adds Blue.

The Canadian Grain Commission offers its Harvest Sample Program. Says Blue, “It gives producers a free, unofficial grade on several samples from the current year’s crop. Producers can submit samples of newly harvested crop prior to November and obtain base grade information for their marketing at no charge. This program also helps the Canadian Grain Commission, the Canadian International Grains Institute, and grain buyers to better know, in a general way, the quality of the crop.”

Producers can learn more and sign up for the Harvest Sample Program online, over the phone, or email. The Commission sends participating producers a personalized kit, including postage-paid envelopes for the samples. Upon grading of the submitted samples, grade results are retrievable via phone, e-mail or through the CGC internet site. These results include:

    • Unofficial grade for each sample submitted.
    • Dockage assessment, oil, protein, and chlorophyll content for canola.
    • Oil, protein, and iodine values for flaxseed.
    • Oil and protein levels for mustard seed and soybeans.
    • Protein content on barley, beans, chick peas, lentils, oats, peas, and wheat.
    • Deoxynivalenol (DON) content and Falling Number for wheat.

      Source: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry