Sask. farmers race to bring in harvest before rain and snow hit

As a large weather system heads towards the province, farmers are hoping to get as much of their crop into the bin as possible.

Growers slightly behind 5-year average, parts of southern Saskatchewan could see 25 to 50 mm of rain

Harvesting crews are in high gear, trying to get this year's crop in before 25 to 50 mm of snow and rain hit this week. (Mike Zartler/CBC)

As a large weather system heads towards the province, farmers are hoping to get as much of their crop into the bin as possible.

A low pressure system coming from southeastern Montana will be pushing rain (and maybe snow) into southern Saskatchewan starting tomorrow. Some parts of the grainbelt could see 25 to 50 mm of rain, while the Cypress Hills could see up to 10 cm of snow.

Meanwhile, this fall's weather has not been helping out with harvest. According to the province's latest crop report, 70 percent of this year's harvest has been combined. The five-year average sits at 79 per cent.

"We got started pretty early in September with our barley, but then we got rained out for about a week," said Marcy Hiduk, who farms just west of Yorkton. "Then we got some wheat off and we've been struggling with the weather ever since."
Marcy Hiduk farms just south of the village of Jedburgh, Saskatchewan. She brought her son along, to help harvest some of their barley.

"Some fields are wet, some are dry. We've been stuck a couple times fighting with the mud, but we're getting it done," she said.

Yields up, quality down

Hiduk said she's pleased with the yields she's seen so far. Some of her barley was selected for malt, and wheat has run between 50 and 60 bushels per acre. Her canola came in at just over 40 bushels an acre. 

She said despite spraying for fusarium earlier this summer, her wheat was downgraded in quality because of the fungus, which is showing up in cereal crops across the province.

Saskatchewan's Ministry of Agriculture is saying yields are up, but the quality of this year's crop is down. That is likely to only get worse with more moisture coming to the province.
Brent Flaten is an integrated pest management specialist with Saskatchewan's Ministry of Agriculture. (CBC)

 "The crop never really dried out all that well during the growing season," said Brent Flaten, an integrated pest management specialist with the ministry. "And as a result, there's a lot of fusarium head blight in the wheats, but it's also showing up in some of the other cereals like oats and barley." 

Fusarium head blight is a fungal disease of small grains.

Early snow a concern

"It is concerning," said Paul Janzen, whose family was combining oats Monday southeast of Saskatoon. "It isn't dry. We're taking it regardless, and we're hoping to be able to aerate it down. It's not damp, it's just tough, So we're hoping it'll be all right, and maybe it's not as much snow as what they're telling us to expect."

Paul Janzen and his family are combining their oats as fast as they can this week, because of heavy rain and snow in the forecast. (CBC)

He said sporadic moisture throughout the growing season has slowed harvest, although at least two-thirds of his family's crops are now in the bin.

"If we get any significant amount of snow we could be down at least a week before we're back going again," Janzen said.

The most recent crop report shows harvest is most advanced in the southwestern grainbelt.

East central areas report only 61 per cent of the crop is combined.