Looking back on 2018 and the memorable harvest

When farmers look back on 2018 there is little doubt one memory will linger longest, at least among prairie producers, and that will be the seemingly never-ending fall.

Harvest actually started early, and thankfully so. The acres taken off in August saved harvest for a number of farmers because when the weather turned it stayed miserable for weeks. It’s not too difficult to find farmers with stories of not turning a wheel on their combines for a month, and the few who did were taking off grain that needed to be dried immediately.

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It could have been a disaster although the weather did steady in October and most producers were able to get all, or at least a majority of their crop in the bin.

While getting the crop off the field is always the key to harvest, a year like this one does mean added costs for producers, and lost revenues.

Much of the crop needed drying, and there is a cost to that process which farmers had to bear.

And crops, in particular cereal crops, degrade when left in the field in wet conditions. The colour of the seed changes and that can be an issue if the grain is used in making cereals and baked goods. No one wants to eat off-colour cereal flakes. So buyers pay less when grain grades are lower.

The combination of lower price-based grades, and higher production costs to dry grain, no doubt cut into the profitability of farm operations this year.

It could have been far worse had the weather not improved later, but it was still a trying harvest for producers who had to have faced more stress than normal due to weather conditions.

And the hangover of the extended harvest will be felt into the spring of 2019.

With crops coming off late, and farmers having to focus on harvest operations almost until the first snow arrived, fall work such as fertilizer application will not have been completed on many farms.

It is the same scenario in terms of fall preparation of stubble, and in some cases there will still be crop to deal with in the spring.

The unfinished operations mean more work will have to be carried out in the spring in order to plant the normal amount of acres. There will be definite time pressures on seeding operations, and weather will need to cooperate for everything to get done in a timely fashion.

As the just-past harvest illustrated, weather is not always co-operative to the needs of farmers, but time will tell after our winter passes.