Western Canada's canola and wheat crops look to ripen this week in greenhouse-like conditions, weather forecasts show, increasing the chances of bumper crops.
Despite delayed spring planting and cool weather earlier in summer that slowed crop development, Canada is set to reap its biggest wheat crop in 22 years and the largest canola harvest ever, thanks to favourable summer growing conditions boosting yields.
Farmers are likely to enjoy warmer than usual daytime weather this week, boosting the development of immature plants and leaving little chance of frost until around the middle of next week, said Andrew Owen, agricultural meteorologist at Kansas City-based World Weather Inc. on Tuesday.
"Through Friday, it's going to be pretty close to ideal," Owen said. "It's going to be warmer than normal, hardly any rain and winds will be fairly light too."
By contrast, parts of the U.S. Midwest corn- and soybean-growing areas are parched for rain.
The biggest Western Canada threat of frost, which can halt plant growth if freezing temperatures last long enough, is shaping up for northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba next Tuesday or Wednesday, right around the usual time for the first serious frost, Owen said.
In the meantime, some isolated parts of the Prairies, including Manitoba's Interlake region, could see minor frosts as early as Wednesday morning, he said.
Environment Canada forecasts overnight low temperatures to remain well above freezing this week for the three Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where the bulk of Canada's canola and wheat crops grow.
Daytime highs look to be much warmer than usual, the government department predicted.
In their most recent crop reports last week, the Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan provincial governments said crop yields were generally well above average.
Canada is the world's biggest canola grower and exporter, and the sixth-largest wheat producer.
But even with favourable weather this week, some late-planted canola and wheat in northern Saskatchewan won't be ready for harvest until late September, leaving it vulnerable to frost damage, said Daphne Cruise, a regional crop specialist with the Saskatchewan ag ministry in Moose Jaw.
Only about five per cent of Saskatchewan crops were harvested as of last week, well behind the normal pace.
Canola has passed its vulnerable flowering stage in Saskatchewan, the biggest canola-growing province, but plants in the pod-development stage could still be damaged by frost, Cruise said.
-- Rod Nickel is a Reuters correspondent based in Winnipeg.