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Farmers taking a lot of crop

Manitoba sees record harvest this year

A proud prairie relic stands tall against the sky in Sperling in late August.
Gear from the past lays fallow field side near Sanford in late August.
Gold over Gold, a harvester works a field of wheat over a spray of Goldenrod near Domain in late August.
A combine and truck stand out against the sky near Sperling in late August.
The spray of dust spills from the back end of a combine, mirroring the spray of clouds in the sky near LaSalle in late August.
A combine thrashes through swaths of canola in late August on a ridge near Roseisle.
Dust frames a combine against the Manitoba Escarpment near Roseisle as it dumps grain from its hopper into a waiting grain truck.
A pair of harvesters dump wheat into a waiting truck near Cardinal.
A farm couple near Altamont share the cab of a combine harvesting a field of wheat.
A red-tailed hawk soars, scanning a canola field being harvested near Notre Dame de Lourdes.
A squad of harvesters reaps early wheat north of Rosenort in mid-July.
Alan Kirk manouvers his combine across a field of canola near Sanford.
Alan Kirk manouvres his combine across a field of canola near Sanford in late August.
A combine uses back roads to access fields for harvest near Domain.
The sun eases into the western horizon, glowing red through the dust of the fall harvest in the Red River Valley.
A proud prairie relic stands tall against the sky in Sperling in late August. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Gear from the past lays fallow field side near Sanford in late August. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Gold over Gold, a harvester works a field of wheat over a spray of Goldenrod near Domain in late August. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
A combine and truck stand out against the sky near Sperling in late August. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
The spray of dust spills from the back end of a combine, mirroring the spray of clouds in the sky near LaSalle in late August. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
A combine thrashes through swaths of canola in late August on a ridge near Roseisle. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Dust frames a combine against the Manitoba Escarpment near Roseisle as it dumps grain from its hopper into a waiting grain truck. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
A pair of harvesters dump wheat into a waiting truck near Cardinal. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
A farm couple near Altamont share the cab of a combine harvesting a field of wheat. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
A red-tailed hawk soars, scanning a canola field being harvested near Notre Dame de Lourdes. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
A squad of harvesters reaps early wheat north of Rosenort in mid-July. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Alan Kirk manouvers his combine across a field of canola near Sanford. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Alan Kirk manouvres his combine across a field of canola near Sanford in late August. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
A combine uses back roads to access fields for harvest near Domain. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
The sun eases into the western horizon, glowing red through the dust of the fall harvest in the Red River Valley. - Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press

Prairie farmers are harvesting their biggest ever crop and yields are higher than many local grain growers can recall.

This year's harvest is so large some farmers -- and at least one local elevator company -- have had to dump grain on the ground because their bins are bursting. Others are tucking grain inside sheds not normally used for crop storage.

Curtis McRae: 'They say it's a good problem (the huge crop) but the stress is killing me and the sleep is very little.'

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Curtis McRae: 'They say it's a good problem (the huge crop) but the stress is killing me and the sleep is very little.' Photo Store

A long line of trucks waits to deliver a record harvest at the Paterson Grain terminal Friday on the northwest outskirts of WInnipeg.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A long line of trucks waits to deliver a record harvest at the Paterson Grain terminal Friday on the northwest outskirts of WInnipeg. Photo Store

Grain growers and agricultural experts interviewed Friday used terms such as "fantastic," "incredible," "phenomenal," "exceptional," and "best crop in a lifetime" to describe the size of this year's harvest.

Dampening their enthusiasm is the fact that with prices tumbling, many may not make any more money than they did last year.

But in any event, 2013 appears destined to be a crop to remember.

'This is the biggest (overall) crop I've ever seen'

-- Brent Sholdice, plant manager of the Paterson Grain terminal

Doug Chorney, who farms near East Selkirk, said his spring wheat yielded a record 71 bushels per acre. On an average year, it's more like 40 to 45 bushels per acre.

"I know that's the best we've ever had," he said of the family operation, which dates back to the early 1940s.

What's more, he achieved the personal record on a 240-acre field that had been damaged by hail, leaving the ground littered with wheat kernels.

Across Manitoba, farmers are reporting spring wheat yields as high as 85 bushels per acre -- about twice an average crop. The provincial Agriculture Department says it has heard of canola yields as high as 65 bushels per acre and barley yields as high as 140 bushels per acre this year.

Neil Townsend, director of market research with CWB (formerly the Canadian Wheat Board), said production of the six major grains -- wheat (including durum) canola, barley, oats, flax and rye -- is predicted to reach a record 61.4 million tonnes on the Prairies, shattering the old mark by seven million tonnes.

Over the past five years, production of these grains has averaged 48.6 million tonnes.

"The yields are exceptional this year," Townsend said.

"We had pretty good weather, but the technology is also there to give people more yield, right. And you know we're seeing that if the weather co-operates, the ability of the plant nowadays is to just give yields that you didn't get before."

The Prairie average yield for red spring wheat is projected to come in at just under 47 bushels per acre -- a record. The average wheat yield for the previous five years was 41 bushels.

Townsend cautioned, however, the high production will not necessarily translate into a financial bonanza for farmers. That's because grain markets are falling as global production for such crops as wheat, corn and soybeans are at or near record levels.

"Prices are going in the wrong direction because of some global factors. Generally it's a bear market," Townsend said.

Storage is becoming an issue for farmers as the harvest nears completion in many areas.

With cloudy and damp conditions idling combines in Manitoba on Friday, many farmers took the opportunity to deliver grain to elevators to make room for crops still out in the fields.

At the large Paterson Grain terminal northwest of Winnipeg, 15 to 20 large trucks -- many of them for-hire haulers -- were lined up to deliver grain throughout the day. Nearby, a giant pile of winter wheat, estimated by truckers at 1.5 million bushels in size, stood on the ground, covered by tarps.

Curtis McRae, who farms 5,000 acres of land near St. Andrews, had been waiting in line for two hours to drop off a load of grain when he was interviewed Friday. "They say it's a good problem (the huge crop) but the stress is killing me and the sleep is very little," he said with a laugh. He still has 500 acres to harvest.

Brent Sholdice, plant manager at the Paterson terminal, said the giant elevator opened its doors at 6:30 a.m. Friday and would remain open until 9 or 10 in the evening.

"Right now, everybody's trying to make space for soybeans (a later maturing crop still to be harvested)," Sholdice said.

"This is the biggest (overall) crop I've ever seen."

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2013 A24

History

Updated on Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 6:06 AM CDT: Replaces photo

6:11 AM: adds slideshow

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