Frustration mounts over long dry down of western Canadian crops

Green-tinged soybeans. Photo credit: Kelvin Heppner, 2018

The 2018 harvest in Western Canada started early for many, given the hot, dry conditions earlier in the summer, but September has turned ugly — but in very different ways in different regions . While some are struggling with snow and wet conditions, still others are getting frustrated with a crop that was roaring to harvest, only to suddenly stall out and stay green. What’s going on?

With the late summer high temperatures and lack of moisture through the growing season, many farmers figured they’d finish harvest in record time, but the crop had other plans. After a summer with heavy smoke cover, record hot and dry temps, and then a quick turn to cold the growing season just sot of quit. RealAgriculture reached out to several agronomists across the Prairies to get a handle on what they thought happened to harvest.

What we found out is that it mainly comes down to two things,: a lack of moisture to drive enzyme activity (i.e. green soybean seeds); and, a quick switch to cold/freezing temps that left stems unable to move anything within the plant — and that includes glyphosate.

That’s why farmers who chose to do a pre-harvest pass later than normal in an effort to try and rid the crop of green are likely disappointed. Unlike a true desiccant, glyphosate has to move throughout the plant to kill it. No movement, no plant death, no dry down. (And remember: dry down is not maturity. Depending on crop stage when the plant shut down, you may have small, immature kernels/seeds to contend with).

Realag agronomist Peter Johnson explains that three consecutive days of very cold temps can “shock” the plant enough that translocation stops — essentially creating a killing frost, without the killing frost. In other words, sudden temps below 4 degrees C for three days leave the plants simply “frozen in time.”

And while there are likely varietal differences out there, farmers should know that the issue is widespread and not just the result of one variety or one company’s genetics. Oh, and there are many who likely are now happy they didn’t #selltheswather, because cutting the crop or applying a true desiccant (e.g. Reglone) are essentially the only options to dry this crop down. Even then, it’s going to take longer to dry down, because wet green stems will be slow to dry regardless of the choice the farmer makes, says Johnson. Add in that low test weights and high moisture grain will just be the reality, and that’s a tough end to the year, for sure.

 

RealAgriculture Agronomy Team

A team effort of RealAgriculture videographers and editorial staff to make sure that you have the latest in agronomy information for your farm.

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