Lack of rain affecting crops at research station

While all district farmers are praying for rain, those on hand for the Emo Agriculture Research Station’s annual open house last Tuesday evening hoped the rain would hold off just long enough to view the crops there—and it did.
The tour, led by research technician Kim Jo Bliss, highlighted several trials, including wheat, barley, oat, soybean, corn, sunflower, and alfalfa. And some hints were offered on how the lack of rain is affecting the crops.
“Our yields [testing how much hay or grain the crop will produce] are going to be low,” Bliss indicated.
“In the spring when we planted so early, that normally means there’s a good indication we could have some yielders,” she noted. “But now because of the dry conditions, yields are going to be reduced.
“But it’s the same for the district,” she added. “I realize rain has been spotty throughout, but generally we’re pretty dry everywhere.”
Bliss stressed they don’t water the crops at the research station.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask me lately, ‘Do you water everything there?’” she said. “We don’t. We just treated it the way the farmers treat it at home.”
That’s so the crops can be tested before someone plants 50 acres and has a complete failure.
“We see what works and doesn’t work here at the station before they [the farmers] make those decisions,” Bliss said.
Last week’s open house also provided a chance for Jack Kyle, a pasture specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, to talk about drought management for pastures and hay.
“It’s nice to have the tour and then have someone here who is able to continue on the evening and talk about what is actually happening,” Bliss noted, saying Kyle has been in Rainy River District previously.
“He’s familiar with what’s going on here and can give tips about how to manage during this drought—in hopes that we’re going to get rain, though, too,” she added.
But on a more positive note, Bliss indicated some trials at the research station are faring well in the dry conditions.
“Despite the drought, our soybeans and corn are doing well,” she said.
“Our forage plants—we’ve had three really, really wet years—so they are very shallow rooted because the root hasn’t had the need to grow down looking for moisture.
“But the annual crops that we just planted this year, they don’t realize it’s been that wet, so they’ve done well,” Bliss continued. “The roots have gone down and obviously found some moisture.”
Bliss doesn’t yet know what the yields will be this year because they are not at that stage thus far, but said there is nice pod development in the soybean crop and beans are setting.
“So we could possibly have a real outstanding soybean yield,” she enthused. “It would be better, for sure, if we did get some rain. Often if they get really dry, they start to wilt, but they’re not showing that yet.
“So that’s an interesting point.”
The lack of rain also has put the research station’s employees (Bliss, Noreen Hartlin, Stephanie Strachan, and Eric Busch) ahead of schedule.
“The grain is ripening. But because it’s so dry, it’s drying up that much quicker,” Bliss explained. “So we’re probably a little ahead of schedule than we would be at some points because of the weather.
“Last year things were dying because it was so wet; this year they are kind of dying because it’s so dry.”
The research station moved to its current location—along Highway 11/71 just west of Emo—in 1990 and Bliss said she has never seen a season as dry as this.
“It’s never been this dry since I’ve worked here,” she noted.
Those at the open house also heard local agriculture intern Eric Busch speak about mycorrhizae inoculants, which is a Rainy River Soil and Crop trial at the research station.
And the sunflower crop also was highlighted.
“They are sort of a demonstration project,” Bliss explained, saying they had some suggestions from people to put in a small block.
“So we did. We just had trouble planting them,” she added. “Normally it requires a special planter we don’t have, so we just used our regular conventional equipment.”
Bliss conceded the sunflowers are not ideal, but they will take some yields.
“It’s definitely a crop that can be grown here,” she noted. “The biggest problem is it attracts the birds terribly, too.
“But there are some guys considering growing sunflowers, so we could see what we could do with it.”
Bliss wasn’t able to provide weed control on the sunflowers because the chemical was too expensive.
“So they may be looking a little shady more than they should, but they’re still something to look at,” she remarked.
“And it kind of attracts people in some sense, too,” she added, noting there was a good turnout at this year’s open house with close to 50 people.
“It’s nice to see the support—that they’re interested in seeing what we’re doing and what is going on,” Bliss stressed. “But people are welcome to come anytime and see what’s going on. . . .
“Whether or not they go home and change anything, at least they know we’re here for information.”