By Megan Oleksyn
Many Western Canada farmers are asking themselves €œWhat next?€ After a dry, cold spring and summer, we are now faced with a wet, cold harvest. When the snow first flew two weeks ago, it was expected to melt and disappear. But now, moving into the middle of October, farmers are hoping not to have to ask Santa for help combining. While any moisture is welcome to assist the taxed soil moisture, there is still a large quantity of grain in the fields.
In my travels within the territory lately (Northern alberta), I have heard most growers saying they will wait out the snow, as it€™s not too late yet for a weather turnaround to occur. With milder temperatures predicted for the weekend, most are hoping that the snow will melt off the swaths. According to Anthony Biglieni, a New Holland sales representative in the Vermilion area, farmers know how far they can push their equipment in this type of weather, but most prefer to wait and utilize the good days. And when those good days arrive, growers will have to be cognizant of how to best utilize them.
Through a recent press release, the Canola Council is urging producers to consider the value and potential loss from overwintering in the swath and prioritize which crop to harvest first when the opportunity presents itself. Derwyn Hammond, senior agronomy specialist for the Canola Council in Manitoba, states, €œCanola that is still in the swath has likely maintained its quality better than other crops, but that won€™t be the case if it is left out until spring. Both cereals and canola will lose bushel weight and be prone to rodent damage in over wintered swaths. However, molds and a buildup of free fatty acids in the oil can drop a number 1 or 2 canola crop to sample grade by spring. Sample grade canola often goes into the feed market at a much lower return per bushel.”
Regardless of whether you are combining or waiting, remember that grain with high moisture content has a tendency to freeze into a large block or start to heat. So, ice and snow should be dealt with before putting any wet grain into the bin. But, the additional cost of drying grain is not something that farmers need after an already difficult growing season.
In 2002, PAMI (Prairie Agriculture Machinery Institute) sent out a press release asking farmers what techniques they had tried to get crop out of the field and into the bin. For getting the swath out of the snow, some suggested running the swath through a round baler with the hatch open and combining directly behind worked well in all cereal crops. As well, a wheel rake or swath turner is said to work to roll the windrow out of the snow if the swath is not frozen down and a straight-cut header could be used to cut the swath if it is frozen down.
If combining in the snow, remember that lower humidity reduces ice buildup in the combine so combining in early morning or late evening has worked best in these situations in the past. Also, putting screens on the grain-cross auger and grain elevator door helps remove some ice and snow.