Harvest one of the busiest times for farmers

Harvest is in full swing and combines can be seen late in the day gathering grains from mature crops.

Farmer Dennis Reid has a full load of grains to be unloaded during a warm day Sept. 13.

Farmer Dennis Reid has a full load of grains to be unloaded during a warm day Sept. 13.

Harvest is in full swing and combines can be seen late in the day gathering grains from mature crops. It is probably one of the most labour intensive periods on a farm and families generally work together to get the job done.

There are many steps to producing a strong yield. From monitoring the commodities market before planting to conducting regular field walk inspections to ensure no pests have decided to call a particular piece of land home.

Dan Lea, owner/operator of Ponoka Fertilizer, feels harvest starts with commodity prices. Market information generally helps a farmer decide what crop to plant for the season. Seeding the product, whether canola, barley, or hay depends on spring thaw.

“Seeding came at a really good time,” stated Lea.

The trouble certain areas faced this year was too much water at the beginning of the season, which can have a negative effect on a young root system. A new root needs “stress” to give it a chance to draw from a larger area as the season continues, explained Lea.

Another issue this year was the plant disease Aster Yellows. “We haven’t seen this problem since 1957.”

It comes from an aster leafhopper usually because of a hot and dry period in the United States, and then migrates north with the wind.

“It has affected crop yield all over the prairies,” he explained.

Partly because of the Aster Yellows, Lea estimated crop yields to be down 10 to 30 per cent in different areas. “That’s a significant drop.”

Shayne Steffen, county manager of agricultural services, said it has been a fairly significant hit for farmers. “There weren’t too many fields that didn’t have it.”

When dealing with canola, Steffen suggests farmers stick with proper crop rotations to decrease the chance of disease such as clubroot.

“We’re trying to minimize the spread, it kind of makes us the bad guys,” he explained.

He advises pressure-washing equipment between fields to try and keep the possible spread of infection down.

Information on a clubroot management plan can be found on the Alberta Agriculture website at http://www.agric.gov.ab.ca/.

“What they say is spores will stay in the soil for 17 to 20 years,” said Steffen.

The challenge farmers face is maximizing their yield, but if they do not follow a crop rotation practice there could be a negative effect over the long term. Some farmers in Leduc last year had 100 per cent yield loss because of clubroot, explained Steffen. “It pays to do crop rotation, that’s for any crop, not just canola.”

He also advises farmers inspect crops to ensure there are no issues in a certain field, if so, he suggests they harvest that specific area last so they can clean equipment when they are done.

Farmer Joe Reid won’t know what his harvest has brought until it is complete. “I don’t think they’re too bad. It’s hard to judge until you get everything in the bin.”

He faces challenges in each field, with some crops being flattened or a little bit of leaf disease from a wet spring. During harvest, Reid, his father and an assistant, the day starts with fueling up and greasing equipment. As the dew lifts they begin to combine the land until approximately 9 p.m.

“It depends on the weather. In the evening a breeze helps keep dust and moisture off,” he explained.

After his other crops are harvested, he hopes to take care of his canola. “I have to wait for it to cure out and have no more green seeds, hopefully.”

Once complete, he intends to pick his bales, do some cultivating, plowing and harrowing to prepare for next year.

“The more you get done now the less you have to do in the spring,” he said.