Friday, August 22, 2014

Station to study impact of late spring on crops

While future funding for the Emo Agricultural Research Station is uncertain at this point, research technician Kim Jo Bliss feels this will be a significant year for trials there as they set out to determine how such a late spring will affect crops locally.
“It’s almost as if we are a month out,” Bliss noted.

She said planting usually takes place toward the end of April or during the first two weeks of May, but district farmers only are just starting to get out on the fields.
And Bliss has never had her research trials in the ground this late.
“We’re doing this to show what will happen,” she explained.
“I don’t know what will happen,” she admitted. “I suspect they will probably mature.
“We might be down in yields but you never know because you don’t know what the weather is going to do.
“This is exactly why we have a research station because we will find out what will happen [in] a year like this,” Bliss added.
“It’s not taking any money out of the farmers’ pockets,” she stressed.
“He’s not putting in the $200 an acre to plant it when we can do these plots and show what would happen.”
Bliss conceded growing crops always is dependent on the weather and there are many things for farmers to consider.
She said many will have crop insurance, but only will have coverage if [they’re] planted before June 10.
“So [farmers] will debate about putting it in the ground or not because if they are not going to be covered, they may just not plant anything,” Bliss remarked, adding it’s been a very frustrating spring.
“Not only are they not getting their grain in, but the grass has been really slow coming on so a lot of cattle are still on winter hay,” she noted.
“So that’s hard on your supply because the more you feed, the less you have as a reserve, which becomes a problem, too.”
Bliss added the recent change in weather doesn’t mean everything is ready to go.
“I don’t know that the pastures are ready yet,” she warned. “If you put [cattle] out too early and they cut it back too short, you are damaging it for the rest of the year, too.
“It’s not like our lawns; how you want to keep them short,” she said.
“We can’t do that with our pastures because we’ll kill it.”
Bliss also stressed farmers have to wait until the ground is dry enough to plant.
“Getting on the ground when it’s too wet, you are compacting your soil and that has real long-term effects,” she said.
“You have to give it those days to dry.”
Still, Bliss indicated the cropping numbers are on the rise in Rainy River District.
“There’s a lot of people who are growing larger number of acres of crops and high-value crops, like corn and soy beans,” she noted, adding those crops require a good long, warm summer.
“So the later they get in, the less chance that they’ll mature,” she remarked.
“Those are expensive crops to put in the ground . . . and people don’t want to risk not have anything after all that expense.”
In fact, Bliss said some farmers might change their cropping plans because of the late spring this year.
“I know there are people considering not putting in their canola,” she revealed, though adding some went ahead and put their corn in before their other crops.
“They can’t sacrifice not having yields on their corn,” she stressed.
Bliss said the research station has plans to put corn in—a crop they haven’t planted there for several years.
“We haven’t got it in the ground yet so the farmers who have it in the ground already are ahead of us, but that’s okay,” she reasoned.
“We’ll see what happens with the ones that are planted later.”
And while Bliss said 2013 also brought a late spring to the district, farmers still were planting earlier last year than this year.
“I think we were convinced that this year would be better,” she admitted.
“But that wasn’t the case and I think we are all struggling with the later start.”
Despite last year’s late spring, however, Bliss said the total growing degree days ended up not too far from normal.
“It’s just the cold in the spring, we never made up for it,” she explained, adding farmers across the district are hoping the next few months will bring “perfect” weather.
“We need to have a warm temperature and an adequate moisture summer,” she said.
“And a nice open fall would be great,” she added. “[The farmers] get the crops in and then they have to start thinking about how they are going to get them off.
“The weather is just as important for them then because if they can’t get on the ground, they are doing the same sort of damage,” Bliss noted.
“So it starts all over again.”

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