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Southeast Agrologist says soil samples are very dry this year compared to other years

Agronomists can provide advice and services related to agricultural and environmental science and technology
Samantha Daku
Agrologist Samantha Daku checks the staging of a wheat crop just outside Corning.

The 2021 growing season has been faced with many challenges.

Several areas have been affected by minimal rainfall and devastating winds and extreme heat. It all has an effect on the soil and in turn the crops that are planted. 

This is when the advice from an agronomist would be very helpful. They can provide advice and services related to agricultural and environmental science and technology. They apply scientific principles and practices to the cultivation, production, utilization and improvement of plants and animals, and the management of associated resources. 

Producers can speak with Samantha Daku, technical agrologist with the Saskatchewan Institute of Agronomists and employed at Living Sky Co-op out of Corning. 

“Soil sampling and feed sampling are two of services I provide for sampling,” explains Daku. 

“Tissue sampling as well if there’s ever a problem in crop.” 

“Actually this fall would be a great time to do feed sampling just because it’s been a drought and all the forage crops have been stressed,” says Daku. “So possibly nitrates have been trapped in them.” 

“That’s one thing I’ll probably be stressing to the growers is to test your forages, green feed and yellow feed.” 

This spring was spent soil testing and through the fall, as soon as the crop is off, soil sampling can also be done. 

That’s when you can see if the soil is deficient in anything or what you can add to try to achieve or hit a certain yield. 

Soil samples in most areas this year was quite dry compared to other years. 

Daku was able to get out to areas early but then came the snow and that put a halt to things as it was too wet to get out into the fields again. 

The producers opted to hold off until this fall for their soil sampling. 

While the crop is still standing, Daku is out at this time of year basically from just before harvest to the end of harvest, checking the staging of the crops.  

“There’s a lot of producers out there that are just too busy and that’s where I come in to give an extra hand to go out there and check on things for them,” says Daku. 

For example: their crop may be at a certain stage where it may be ready to desiccate, or possibly in three days look at desiccating, or check to see how far along their canola is and is it ready to be swathed. 

“That’s what I’m looking at is the staging of the crops,” explains Daku. 

There are many farmers who don’t desiccate and let the crop dry down by itself. 

The desiccation process just speeds it up from possibly two weeks to three days. 

“Anyone with a straight cut header can desiccate, although a lot of producers still lay down the swaths,” explains Daku. 

Once the harvest is complete, farmers still have things to be concerned about. 

“This fall once the crop is off, I’ll be going out and weed scouting,” explains Daku. 

“I’ll be looking for problem weeds and let the producers know what to watch out closer for next year.” 

“If the field is super clean, if you desiccate, there’s a chance you may not have to do a burn-off.” 

“I just went out and collected kosha seeds that I’m drying down to send off to a government lab to get testing for glyphosate resistance,” explains Daku, who adds, “so kosha can be a bad one.” 

“We’ve done testing for Group 1 Resistant Wild Oat and Millet.” 

The ones to really watch are wild oat and kosha in this area. 

Over the years there are weeds that become tolerant to chemicals. 

“It is a concern and there are ways to control that,” explains Daku. 

“Some of the ways include going back to cultural control.” 

“Sometimes you have to burn some weed seeds or tillage may be an option.” 

The weeds we see vary from year to year depending on whether it’s a drought year or otherwise. 

“There’s definitely more types of weeds in dry years but in the wet years there’s a whole different set of weeds,” explains Daku. 

“In the dry years you’ll find more black medic and wood whitlow grass which flourish in this type of weather.” 

“In the wet years, there tends to be a lot more narrow leaf hawksbeard.” 

And if the weather and the weeds aren’t enough to contend with, farmers have to combat against the influx of gophers and grasshoppers this year. 

There are plenty of gophers this year. It’s hard to control them. 

The co-op has sold lots of gopher traps and approved gopher poisons. 

Some of the producers in the area have sprayed for grasshoppers. 

Grasshoppers don’t thrive well in the wet years, partly because when they lay their eggs, their eggs get fungus on them and that kills the eggs before they can make it to adults. 

There are 80 species of grasshoppers in Saskatchewan but only four are detrimental to crops. 

“If you have a field of wheat with hay fields all around, you’ll probably have more grasshoppers invading the crop once the hayfield is cut,” says Daku

Very few of the crops have been combined up until now. 

“Some of the local farmers who have already harvested their peas are saying that the yield is 30 to 50 per cent less compared to last year,” says Daku. 

“It really depends on who got those little pockets of rain.” 

According to the crop report for the period of Aug. 3-9, much of the province received small amounts of rain during these dates. More rain would be welcomed to help late seeded crops fill the last of their seed. The biggest benefit of the rain will be to pasture land that has struggled to endure the drought. 

Small showers during the week did little to offset the ongoing drought but there was a slight increase in topsoil moisture conditions. Hay and pasture land topsoil moisture is rated as five per cent adequate, 28 per cent short and 67 per cent very short. 

Many producers have noted that hay yields are below average this year. Estimated average dryland hay yields for the province are 0.80 tonnes per acre for alfalfa, 0.70 tonnes per acre for alfalfa/bromegrass, 0.60 tonnes per acre for other tame hay, 0.60 tonnes per acre for wild hay and 1.0 tonnes per acre for greenfeed. Estimated average irrigated hay yields are 1.3 tonnes per acre for alfalfa, 1.80 tonnes per acre for alfalfa/bromegrass and 2.2 tonnes per acre for greenfeed. 

“Seed will probably be short next year just because the yields are poor this year,” explains Daku and encourages farmers to ‘Book your seed early for the 2022 growing season.’