The crop condition index calculated for lentils in Saskatchewan as of July 25 is 151, down from 200 as of July 11 and the initial May 30 reading of 232, which was the highest initial reading seen in available Saskatchewan government data going back to 2005.
When other crops have actually shown improvement over recent weeks and since the initial 2016 crop condition data was released, the pulses have not fared well, given the extreme levels of moisture seen in many areas of the province. This is perhaps no surprise to lentil growers, as these crops handle excess moisture poorly.
The most recent crop report shows 15% of the province currently facing a surplus moisture situation. At a quick glance at the Weekly Rainfall Summary, there are three locations having received more than 400 millimeters of moisture since April 1, with the highest seen at 433 mm or 17 inches at two locations in the southwest of the province. Roughly 40 more locations have received in excess of 300 mm or 12 inches since April 1.
Saskatchewan Agriculture's site currently shows historic crop reports going back to 2005. Of the 12 years reported, the crop condition index based on the government's Very Poor, Poor, Fair, Good and Excellent ratings increased for lentils from the first reading in the spring to the last reading in late July or early August in four of the 12 years.
Of the eight years that saw a decline in the index, three bear a resemblance to the trend seen in the current crop year. The trend seen in 2006 and 2007 may bear the closest resemblance to 2016. In 2006, the initial crop condition index is calculated at 213 and falls 89 points or 41.8% to the final reading of 124 (blue line). In 2007, the initial index of 220 fell by 71 points or 32.3% to a final reading of 149 (red line).
The green line represents the trend seen in 2015. The initial reading of 146, given dry conditions in the spring and patchy germination drifted lower into early July only to improve with timely rains to end at 121. This was the lowest seen in the 12 years data, although only 3 points lower than the final reading in 2006.
As yield determination for the crop is challenging, there may be little correlation or predictive value realized from the crop condition index. The average Saskatchewan yield in 2006 is estimated at 1,115 pounds per acre, down 15.5% from the previous year but higher than the previous five-year average. In 2007, yield was similar at 1,136 pounds/acre, also higher than the previous five-year average. These two years were the lowest yielding crops realized in the 12 years that Sask Ag supplies crop reports for. The 2015 average Saskatchewan yield was 1,339 pounds per acre, 7.4% below the previous year and 8.6% below the previous five-year average.
It's perhaps interesting to note that low crop ratings in the years looked at have not led to severe reductions in yield, although this is little consolation for those walking fields to find acres lost to flooding along with root rot, disease, a lack of flowering and podding.
Cliff Jamieson can be reached at email@example.com
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