What has the 2020 growing season been like for a family farm 30 kilometres west of Saskatoon? Challenges? Opportunities?
Derek Dery and his family operate a grain farm 30 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon. Derek is also a FarmLink regional manager for Saskatchewan North. He has farmed for 17 years but spent the past nine years cultivating his farm on the land he has now. Like every year, the 2020 crop has a tale to tell.
The story started in the fall of 2019 when conditions prevented a timely harvest and eliminated a window to do field preparation work for 2020. Impacts include poor weed control due to the lack of fall spraying and poor residue management due to the lack of tilling or harrowing.
Derek seeds 5,000 acres. This year he planted half canola and half wheat, with a sprinkle of oats. The wheat crop has thrived from day one, and yield expectations are above average. Timely rains helped build yield potential. There were signs of disease, fusarium, but this was managed quickly. Last year, wheat yield was between 65 and 70 bushels/acre. This year, he anticipates wheat yields will be an additional 10 to 15 bushels/acre higher. Frost is the most identifiable risk. If all goes to plan, harvest will start the third week of August.
Canola has been a struggle this year. As mentioned above, the late 2019 harvest prevented field preparation. Seeding started favourably but was soon followed by several days of aggressive wind. The wind may have dried down the seed and reduced emergence. As a result, the plant density is lower than it normally would be. Ideally, there should be seven to 10 per square foot.
This year, there are patches with only one plant per square foot. The average plants per square foot is running between three and five. Given timely rains, canola should be faring better, but the lack of plant density could diminish canola yield potential. Canola has also had signs of disease. Derek’s current strategy is to let the canola be. Even with fewer plants per square foot, canola can branch out and flower to benefit yield. Derek expects to start harvesting canola late August. He wants to give it the most time he can to allow for a higher pod count per plant. Yield is expected to be between 45 and 50 bushels/acre. Without the 2019 delay and the harsh wind at seeding, yield expectations would be 55+ bushels/acre.