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Season Marked by Severe Drought, Weak Yields

Manitoba has released its final crop report for the 2021 growing season, one that was marked by severe drought and much lower-than-normal crop yields.

Much-needed rains failed to arrive in the critical month of July, leading to widespread downgrades in crop yields and in turn triggering a high volume of crop insurance claims, the report said. Meanwhile, late August rains – while too late to improve yield prospects for early crops - did benefit soybeans and sunflowers most noticeably, with reported average yields nearing 30 bu/acre in soybeans and over 2000 lbs/acre in sunflowers.

A drawn-out harvest started early but extended into mid-October due to green regrowth hampering crop dry-down and still no killing frost to date in much of the province.

Cattle producers faced serious feed shortfalls due to low forage and pasture yields and had to supplement cattle for portions of the summer. Recent regrowth has alleviated some pressure, but cattle producers have been creative in finding alternative feeds and stockpiling for winter, the report said.

Southwest:

Winter wheat yielded in the 55 to 60 bu/ac range, following significant stresses last fall and this spring. Fall rye came off in the 60 to 80 bu/ac range. Both crops had good quality, but yields were limited where frosts damaged heads during flowering. Pea yields ranged from 30 to 50 bu/acre, averaging 40 bu/ac, with excellent quality, but smaller seed size than normal. Flax yields reported were better than last year, ranging from 20 to 45 bu/ac, with very good quality seed.

Most of the early harvested spring wheat graded 1 CW. Protein averaged 13.5% according to many producers. Later harvested wheat had sprouting damage and bleaching where the crop was left in the field due to stagey ripening and sat in swath during a rainstorm. Yields ranged from 30 to 70 bu/ac, averaging 45 to 55 bu/acre. Barley yielded between 50 to 70 bu/ac, averaging in the 60 bu/ac range, grading 1 CW, with good weight and low vomitoxin. Oats ranged from 50 to 120 bu/ac, and averaged 70 to 100 bu/acre. Test weights varied through harvest, reflecting in-season rainfall amounts. Fewer thins than expected. Downgrading was due to mildew, discolouration and rain/high humidity.

Canola yields ranged from 25 to 55 bu/ac, averaging 30 to 40 bu/ac with all grain graded 1 CAN. Most of canola was straight cut, after being left in the field longer than normal, allowing green spots and stagey crops time to ripe evenly. There were some regrowth issues in canola as well due to late season rains, which made harvest tricky for some producers.

Northwest:

While precipitation almost reached 90% of seasonal normal accumulation in some areas, the timeliness of precipitation played a big factor this season. Most rainfall fell in mid to late August, too late to contribute to yield production in cereals, peas, and early canola crops. The majority of the region falls into the category of dry to very dry in terms of soil moisture conditions heading into winter

Field pea yields were lower than normal this year due to lack of moisture. Yields ranged from 35 to 40 bu/ac in the Swan Valley; 30 bu/ac in Roblin; 40 to 45 bu/ac in Dauphin and Grandview. Pea harvest was completed in a timely manner and there were no concerns with grade. Winter wheat yields ranged from 45 to 55 bu/ac and fall rye ranged from 45 to 65 bu/acre. There were no issues taking off these crops. It is expected that winter wheat acres will increase this year in the Dauphin area.

Spring wheat harvest started out well and part way through the region received some rains, which put a hold on harvest progress. This resulted in downgrading due to sprouted wheat and lower falling numbers. Yields ranged from 60 to 75 in The Pas, 40 to 80 bu/ac in the Swan Valley; 50 bu/ac in Roblin area; 45 to 60 bu/ac in Dauphin area. Approximately half the spring wheat was graded 1CW while the remainder is spread into lower grades.

Oat and barley harvest is complete. Lack of moisture has resulted in some oats being light-weight. Late rains also caused issues with regrowth. Oat yield ranges from 50 to 110 bu/ac across the region. Barley yields range from 45 to 60 bu/ac.

The canola crop had its share of struggles this season starting in the spring, with a lack of moisture causing germination issues and several extreme wind events. Followed by a persistent flea beetle season as well as a late frost in some areas, warranted reseeding in some fields. High temperatures during the flowering period caused significant heat blast, reducing yield potential. The canola crop yields were reflective of the condition of the crop and varied considerably. There were no large concerns with quality downgrading, however there was some damaged canola due to dry conditions and pod drop. Yields in the Swan Valley region ranged from 20 to 35 bu/ac in poorer stands and 40 to 55 bu/ac in better fields; 30 to 40 bu/ac in the Parkland district. There remains a few standing fields of canola across the region which puts harvest progress at 99% complete.

Central:

The 2021 growing season can be characterized as a hot drought. Growing season precipitation in Central region was below average while temperatures and growing degree-day (GDD) were above average throughout the season resulting in stressful growing conditions for crops and forages

Winter cereal harvested acres were down compared the last few years. Winter wheat yield ranged from 50 to 65 bu/ac, and fall rye ranged from 50 to 80 bu/ac. Test weights were good, as were falling numbers for rye. Ergot levels in rye tended to be lower than in recent seasons. Grain quality was good, with very low fusarium-damaged kernels (FDK) and vomitoxin levels.

Barley yields ranged from 50 to 100 bu/ac, with the majority falling in the 65 to 75 bu/acre. Quality is very good. Many barley growers made malt quality this year. Oat yields varied widely from 40 to 130 bu/ac, averaging 80 to 90 bu/acre. Quality was good but higher thin levels reported in some early harvested oats. Most graded at the highest designation, and buyers are eager for supply given the substantial shortfall in yields this year, despite lower test weights in a sizeable number of samples. Spring wheat yields ranged from 20 to 90 bu/ac, with most reporting 45 to 55 bu/ac average. Most CWRS graded 1 CW, with protein at 14 to 15% and some higher. CNHR grades are good, with most reporting a top grade. Fusarium was minimal, with low FDK and vomitoxin levels.

Canola yields were highly variable having significant establishment issues due to dry soils and hot temperatures at emergence and again at flowering combined with extreme flea beetle pressure in many cases resulted in many fields reseeded even after many attempts at controlling flea beetle damage. Yields ranged from 15 to 55 bu/ac, averaging 25 to 35 bu/acre. Quality is very good with the majority of the crop grading 1 CAN. Dockage was higher than normal, and some farms are concerned about green dockage causing heat spoiling in the bin if aeration is not adequate.

There were more acres of flax in the region this year. Good harvested grain quality. Reported flax yields ranged from 15 to 28 bu/acre. Flax straw was disposed of via burning. Field pea acreage was higher than last year. Harvested peas yielded well in the 25 to 65 bu/ac range with fair to good harvest quality.

Eastern:

The 2021 growing season was a challenging one.

Winter wheat yields averaged 65 bu/ac, lower than the expected normal average of 75 bu/acre. Quality was 100% 1 CWRW and bushel weight was good. Fall rye averaged 75 bu/ac, below the expected average of 85 bu/acre. Quality was good at 100% rated 1 CW. Field peas yielded 50 bu/ac, below the expected yields of >60bu/acre. No issues with crop quality.

Producers were surprised by the yield and quality of the spring wheat crop. Yield reports average 60 bu/ac, near the norm with good quality and bushel weights. Wheat protein ranged from 10.5 to just over 14%. Oats yields were disappointing overall, yield reports ranged from 50 to 100 bu/ac with a 70 bu/acre average and light bushel weights (37 to 40lb/bu). Overall oats could not handle the heat of the summer and yields were well below the expected average >100bu/acre.

Canola yield reports range from 10 to 40 bu/ac averaging 20 to 25 bu/ac; below the expected area average of 50 bu/acre. Canola yielded somewhat better than expected given the growing season issues. Flax yielded approximately 20 bu/ac, and handled drought stress poorly. Yields were below the average yield expected of approximately 30bu/acre. Flax quality was good at 100% 1 CW, despite challenges where crop regrowth following September rains led to substantial flowering and green boll formation.

Soybean yields ranging from 19 to 42 bu/ac, with good quality. Average yield for the region is 32 bu/ac, on par with the average expected yields for the region. Quality was at 100% 2 CAN. There was a wide range of yields reported but overall producers are happy with the performance of the crop in a moisture stressed year.

Grain corn crops yield reports range from the 70 to 150 bu/acre range with the regional average around the 100 bu/ac mark. Lower yields are disappointing as they are well below the expected area average of 140 bu/acre. Quality is good at 100% of yield at 2 CW with good bushel weight being reported.

Interlake:

A very dry winter with minimal snowfall led to a challenging start to seeding in the Interlake. Overwinter moisture accumulation was less than 40% across the region, leading to limited spring runoff.

Field peas started to come off at the beginning of August, with average yields below normal at 25 bu/acre. Spring wheat yields ranged from 20 to 60 bu/ac, generally averaging in the low thirties. Smaller kernel size and fewer spikelets per head is the norm, but disease and fusarium damaging is next to zero. Straw was in high demand, with nearly every pea, cereal, and canola field being baled. Oat yields ranged from 50 to 80 bu/ac, with the poorest crops intended for grain cut as greenfeed or silage, bringing average yields slightly higher. Most oats were lightweight, under 40 lbs/bushel. Barley yielded between 20 to 80 bu/ac, averaging mid-40s.

Canola crops suffered more, yields between 5 to 30 bu/ac were common. There was a significant increase in the number of fields desiccated this year, since late August rains spurred regrowth in many canola and flax crops, as well as lush volunteer growth on cereal stubble. Larger oilseed plants with established root systems took much more time to dry down ahead of the combine, and even after harvest, regrew and began to bloom throughout late September and into October. Harvested canola had higher dockage this fall, leading to farmer concerns about green dockage heating in bins, and spoiling high-value canola seed. In some cases, canola crops were written off due to poor yield expectations, and farmers kept the regrowth for cattle greenfeed or silage, or attempted to see if regrowth might ripen in time for a late harvest if a killing frost was late in the year.

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