A difficult, wet harvest left many producers across the prairies with deep ruts in their fields and damaged equipment. Photos: Art Enns

Wet, drawn-out harvest season creates challenges for the spring.

From a few days into October to the end of the month, our customers really didn’t have any dry grain come off the field at all. Gerald Bryson

By communicating with producers, adapting to their sched-ules and being mindful of obstacles, agri-retailers should be able to make the spring season a success despite last year’s challenges.

“It was a very tough harvest, a very long harvest,” says Gerald Bryson, senior director of Zone 5 with Richardson Pioneer. “From a few days into October to the end of the month, our customers really didn’t have any dry grain come off the field at all.”

Bryson says within Zone 5, which encompasses Manitoba and parts of Saskatchewan, Richardson Pioneer’s customers had a varied experience with the way the weather affected their harvest, which was reflected in the amount of fall fertilizer its customers applied.

“It was a real range. In most of the Red River Valley, fertilizer application was fairly normal,” he says. “But then there were places that got next to nothing of their fall fertilizer down.”

Weather Woes

While Manitoba dealt with rain in October, the rain had turned to snow in other provinces.

“A lot of northern Saskatchewan was under quite the blanket of snow, so then there was a lot of crop left out there,” says Bryson. “Producers resumed combine harvesting in November, and got that crop off. A lot of tough grain came off the field.”

In addition to delaying harvest and fall fertilizer applications, the wet conditions were also hard on equipment and left some fields in a poor state for spring planting.

“There were a lot of ruts, lots of tracks left in the field,” Bryson says. “That lead to a lot of stuck and damaged equipment.”

Agri-retailers and producers will have their hands full in the spring trying to catch up after such a difficult harvest. Field conditions, limited fertilizer application and other field work that wasn’t completed will affect how agri-retailers prepare for next season.

Spring Solutions

To make the season a success, agri-retailers will have to be well-prepared and adapt to the heavier workload in less time. Fertilization will be a large priority, since so little was applied.

“It’s going to be more work in a shorter period of time,” says Bryson. “A lot of the fall business is ammonia that didn’t get down. There’s only so much capacity for ammonia in the spring, so it’s going to put pressure on the ammonia product line.”

Retailers will primarily have to be ready for extra demand on fertilizer and application equipment. We have to make sure producers and retailers are communicating. Gerald Bryson

Bryson says this pressure will increase the liquid and dry fertilizer product lines, and Richardson Pioneer is preparing to meet the extra demand. Richardson Pioneer will work with their customers to help them develop a fertilizer plan, which will need to allow producers to put down as much fertilizer as necessary, while ensuring Richardson Pioneer’s logistics can support it. On top of fertilizer, Bryson says other field work that wasn’t completed last fall will be difficult to deal with.

“Our customers weren’t able to complete their fall tillage or drainage. That puts us at a great disadvantage going into spring,” he says. “The fields that were rutted up during the harvest will be very challenging in the spring because of water lying in the deep tracks.”

Bryson thinks that field conditions may be the single biggest issue for producers in spring. He says there isn’t much agri-retailers can do to help producers with the poor field conditions, but they can help in other ways.

“Retailers will primarily have to be ready for extra demand on fertilizer and application equipment,” he says. “We have to make sure producers and retailers are communicating so the retailers have all the products and services the producers need available to them.”

Bryson says it is important for agri-retailers to be flexible in these situations, since it’s impossible to plan ahead for a wet harvest or other poor weather conditions. The weather is too erratic and can change too quickly.

“We plan for good conditions every year because you need to be ready if crop is coming off early,” he says. “Then, you just have to adjust as things change.”

Even if you think you may be entering a dry year or a wet year, Bryson says that can change throughout the season without warning.

“Last year was a funny year. It started off so dry in the spring. We really didn’t get any spring rain until late May,” he says. “We thought we would face challenges from a terribly dry year. But then when we got the rain, it was anywhere from perfect to quite excessive.”

Although one can’t plan for the weather, being able to adapt quickly and work around it will help you maximize success. With a little foresight and communication, Bryson is confident that the challenges of 2016 will translate into a successful spring season.

“You get challenges every year, but often, you don’t know what they’re going to be,” he says. “But this year, we’re already aware of at least some of the challenges we’re going to face today.”

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