Autumn, not winter, starts on September 22

Sometimes it seems like we go straight from summer to winter, and some areas have had a winter feel already, but the winter season is not imminent. There is still hope for good harvest weeks to come. Don’t rush into pre-winter jobs just yet.

The typical pace of harvest. While harvest showed promise for an early start and while Manitoba and other parts of the southern Prairies are well on their way to completion, other regions hoping to finally START canola combining might find comfort in knowing harvest isn’t that late yet.

Alberta: The five-year average for combining progress for all crops (as of September 11, the last report available at posting) is 25% in the Northeast, 17% in the Northwest and 31% in the Peace.
Saskatchewan: On its crop report webpage, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture compares this year to each of the previous five years. As of September 10, 58% of all crops were combined. This is behind last year’s pace (65%) but well ahead of the four years before that. The five-year average is 37%. See the latest report.
Manitoba. 85% of Manitoba canola was combined as of September 17, which compares to a 10-year average of around 70%. Overall harvest progress in Manitoba is 65% complete, but that includes a lot of soybean (20% complete) and corn (1% complete) acres. Manitoba crop reports.

Pre-winter jobs. The two big pre-winter field jobs – winter annual weed control and fertilizer application/soil testing – are best done later in the fall.

1. Winter annual weed control. October until freeze up is a good time to control winter annuals such as narrow-leaved hawk’s-beard, stork’s-bill, annual sow thistle (common and spiny) and cleavers. Perennials could be sprayed a little earlier, but you want them actively growing (good fall weather), healthy and with fairly large leaves for targeting. Read more.

Other considerations:
–Precipitation over the past two weeks could produce a big flush of fall-emerging weeds.
–Look for clubroot hosts volunteer canola, stinkweed, shepherd’s purse, flixweed and mustard. In fields known to have or that could have clubroot, consider controlling those weeds within three weeks after emergence to stop gall formation and spore escalation.

2. Fall soil sampling. For results as close as possible to the situation next spring, the ideal time to take fall samples is when soil temperatures drop below 10°C and as close to freeze-up as possible. Microbial processes in the soil slow down as temperatures cool, so mineralization should be minimal below that temperature threshold. Keep in mind that abnormally warm stretches in late fall/early winter after you have soil tested could lead to changes from your results you received from the lab.

3. Fall fertilizer applications. To keep nitrogen in stable ammonium form and reduce losses between application and seeding, apply when soils are below 10°C and place N fertilizer in tight bands in the soil. Read more. If soils are below 10°C this week, do I apply? Probably not. Note that in November 2016, a stretch of warm weather had us concerned about nitrogen losses.