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Farmers taking a lot of crop

Manitoba sees record harvest this year

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

"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."

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


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

6:11 AM: adds slideshow

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