'They’re just burnt right up to nothing': Sask. canola farmers brace for challenging harvest
Standing in acres of stunted canola, Saskatoon-area farmer Derek Dery says usually by this time, his crops are well above his waist. But not this year as the plants are barely past his knees.
“We’re just under 2,000 acres this year and unfortunately two-thirds of our canola looks similar to this,” Deary said, holding what he describes as a petrified canola plant. “The excessive heat on top of drought stress has fizzled the plants into just sticks, the pods have dried up, it’s unfortunate but it’s the way it is.”
According to Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada Inc., the national body monitoring drought conditions across the country, Saskatchewan is currently in a severe or extreme drought, and it’s the result of sustained extreme heat and well-below average precipitation, especially in the Saskatoon area.
“The Saskatoon area particularly we’re 125-150 mm below normal for the growing season since April 1st,” said agroclimate specialist Trevor Hadwen. “This last month has been extremely dry.”
What Saskatchewan is facing currently is a one in 50-year occurrence, Hawden said. Meaning if you look at the past 100 years and the levels of precipitation recorded, 2021 is one of the two worst years over the past 100 years.
“Unfortunately this is the year that we’ve always been afraid would eventually come,” Dery said.
An average canola yield for Dery’s operation is 40 to 45 bushels per acre. This year’s harvest he’s expecting a massive dip in his yields, with some acres producing zero. He added this year is 100 per cent a crop insurance year.
“I don’t think this field will fill four-and-a-half bushels per acre so we’ll have a lot of single digit canola yields,” he said. “If you look at some of these pods and plants they’re just burnt right up to nothing, it’s just sticks that’s left with one pod per plant.”
Now with just weeks left in the growing season, Dery said the best he could hope for is clear weather and closure.
“The best gift for us would be closure, get this crop harvested with the quality that’s there,” he said.
Hawden added even inches of rain over Saskatchewan wouldn’t do much more than replenish a fraction of soil moisture in the ground, He compares what’s happening in Saskatchewan to an extreme drought that hit the province more than 30 years ago.
“I look at comparing this year’s drought to 1988,” he said. “We had severe temperatures throughout the year and very dry conditions.”