|FTLComm - Tisdale - Saturday, August 31, 2002|
|In a year in which the most serious drought in recorded history
has occurred it is surprising to see a tractor working up a field with a disker.
After all it was zero tillage that permitted any crop at all to have been produced
on fields like this one this year. Zero tillage allows a firmly established trash
cover to hold what little moisture there is available. This trash cover provides
the soil it covers with a little protection from the sun and wind which in a year
like this one quickly turn an exposed surface to dust and then it is drifted away.
This field, a mile West of Tisdale was planted in peas this year which yielded a minimum crop of about 10 bushel. Peas are excellent for the soil as they are able to fix nitrogen into the soil.
But August has been a time of abnormal heat and enough moisture to produce abundant growth in soil which had been fertilized and growing conditions had hampered a proper utilisation of that fertilizer now it is growing. The normal procedure would be to sweep the field with Round-up killing the growth and leaving the soil untouched ready to protect itself through the coming winter and early spring. But the growth on this and other fields is just not appropriate for chemical treatment since that would only kill present growth and might have to be repeated several times before freeze up. It was decided to run over this field with a heavy harrow to kill the emerging weeds and volunteer plants that had not germinated in the spring but it was discovered that the growth was to extensive for a light treatment and the field was disked. The light rain over night (1/10th of an inch) only left the soil damp on the surface and its ultra dry condition made it easy to turn over and still preserve some trash cover but not enough to protect the soil.
However, Phillips Seeds felt they had no alternative but to turn over the soil.
The late summer heat and modest rainfall have actually produced a second growing season this year and farmers are confounded by the situation trying to figure out what to do as the harvest window slips by. In the last few years some crops have come ready at the first of August and combining seems to span onward until mid September. This year the harvest season is distorted. Some crops planted early have been harvested while others are only now getting the full growth from the previously ungerminated spring planting.
The flax crop above and this Canola crop illustrate the problem of the harvest of 2002. In every year the flax and Canola bloom in late May and early June only late crops would be in flower in late June. So both of these and other crops like them did just that and went on to develop their seed. In the Canola crop you can see the mature pods on the crop but amidst the maturing crop is the fresh newly developing crop which only began its life in late July. Flowering Canola and flax at the end of August is extraordinary. The dilemma for farmers is if they should spray the crop with a descicant and then harvest or should the wait and see if the new crop with increase the field's yield and still be harvestable before the onset of winter.
Some farmers have decided to harvest hoping to get enough off the field to cover this year's expenses. Some large farms are hedging their bets by harvesting some and leaving others to see what will happen.
The Canola crop above was photographed a week ago as it lies ready for combining and has since been processed but few can remember a harvest time with everything as green as it is this year.
One of the swather operators for Tisdale Alfalfa Dehydration explained that the green feed they are now processing is of good value and will make excellent feed but reports that it is the most filthy stuff to work in as it is so dusting and dry. However, the dehydration plant, though still with a huge amount of green feed to cut and process was intending to switch back to the second cut of alfalfa yesterday.
This year's second cut is considered absolutely remarkable in quality and volume. The late summer growing conditions are almost perfect for alfalfa and though the acreage is not great they expect the quality to be outstanding. Tisdale Alfalfa has increased their field cutting equipment from six swathers to nine with some of their equipment now being directed to producing cube product.
This crop of oats right beside the West side of town (at right and below) illustrates the confusion in the fields. This crop was mature and ready for harvest perhaps three weeks ago. In both pictures if you look closely you can see the stunted rip oat crop now over shadowed by the new second growth green crop.
This crop owned by Ron Phillips will be left and the second crop allowed to mature to harvest age then combined with the hope that using a straight combine process (rather than swathing first which is the normal process for oats) will result in an enhanced yield and offer better compensation on the field than harvesting that first stunted crop.