Cold, soggy spring delaying seeding on Prairies

Planting corn in south-central Manitoba in May 2014. (Co-operator photo by Allan Dawson)

Winnipeg | Reuters — Crop planting in Western Canada has fallen well behind the usual pace as cool, wet weather idles farmers.

Just six per cent of the overall crop was planted as of Monday, down from last year’s 10 per cent and well off the norm of around one-quarter seeded by this time of year, according to CWB.

It’s still possible to get most of the crop planted by the end of May, but that will depend on favourable weather, said Bruce Burnett, weather and crop specialist at CWB, the grain marketing company previously called the Canadian Wheat Board.

“What we do not need or cannot withstand is a period of time where we get frequent rains or heavy rains,” he said.

Farmers across much of the Prairies should make better planting progress in the next few days, Burnett said. Environment Canada forecasts showers to arrive during the weekend and early next week.

The wettest areas are in western Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan, where some farmers are waiting for fields to dry before they can plant. Farmers in southwestern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta have made better progress, Burnett said.

Cool weather has also left soils colder than usual, which can delay germination. Winnipeg received snow flurries on Wednesday morning.

In Saskatchewan, the province that produces the most wheat and canola, the overall planting pace is about normal, close to 10 per cent, said Shannon Friesen, cropping management specialist with the Saskatchewan government in Moose Jaw. But the east-central part of the province is off to a slower start after heavy snowfall took a long time to melt.

“There are concerns that the calendar dates sure are flying by,” she said. “But all we need is a few good weeks of warm, windy weather.”

Canadian farmers intended to plant about five per cent less wheat, or about 24.8 million acres, and a slightly smaller canola area of 19.8 million acres, Statistics Canada reported on April 24.

Planting delays have led to farmers holding back on sales of last year’s crop as insurance, which has supported ICE Futures Canada canola futures in recent days, traders said. [Related story]

ICE’s nearby July contract rose in five straight sessions prior to Wednesday, gaining six per cent over that time.

Overall supplies are plentiful after railways struggled during the winter to move record-large crops, but more stocks than usual are in farmers’ hands.

Farmers usually have planting wrapped up during the last week of May or first week of June.

Later planting can delay development and expose immature crops to damaging frosts in August or early September.

In Manitoba, limited planting has begun, but some farmers are waiting for warm, dry weather to begin planting, the provincial government said Monday.

Alberta farmers planted just two per cent of their crops as of May 5, well behind the usual pace, the province’s government said Friday.

— Rod Nickel is a Reuters correspondent based in Winnipeg.

SEEDING YET? Whether you’re on the field, kept off the field or stuck in the field, show us how conditions look in your area today. Email your 2014 seeding photos to [email protected].




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