Farmer Focus Arable: Potato harvest is going well for Seth Pascoe

Here are three of my main observations about grain harvest in Southern Alberta:

1 Typically you only check the grain moisture once – at the start of the field

2 The header permanently stays on the combine. Whether on gravel back roads or main highways, people pull over. Maybe they’re being courteous or maybe it’s just nerves – watching a 45ft header coming towards you can be somewhat intimidating.

3 A grain drier? What’s that?

As you read this we are busily harvesting potatoes. We are running the pivots over the field a couple of days ahead of the harvester to provide optimal digging conditions. Tuber temperatures are getting a little bit on the high side by mid-afternoon, so the team start at 5am and the harvester is parked at 3pm. Potatoes going into the back of the shed are very high quality which is reassuring; hopefully one less thing to worry about over the 10-month storage period.

Early yield estimates are pleasantly surprising; especially after the peculiar growing season. A higher amount of hollow heart than usual is disappointing; our contract allows less than 3%, but we may exceed this in certain fields. The stop-start season is one possible explanation, but we ought to review our fertility strategy as well.

The frost-free duration for this year is likely to be much shorter than usual. While the days are still sunny and warm, open skies are causing temperatures to drop considerably at night. Parts of the province have already experienced the first frost of autumn. Many potato farmers (myself included) are anxiously hoping that the frost stays away at least until the crop is safely in store.

Elsewhere on the farm contractors are spreading compost onto fields destined for potato production next year, second-cut Timothy is curing nicely in the heat, canola is just about ready for the combine and winter wheat is being seeded. Busy, busy!

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