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Crop damage varies across Prairies

Swathed canola under snow at Barons, Alta. on Sept. 9. (Lee Hart photo)

CNS Canada –– Last week’s Prairie frost seems to have bitten Alberta crops the hardest, but all across Western Canada, crop experts say wet, cold weather poses challenges to late-stage development.

In Alberta, a hard frost came the night of Sept. 10 and morning of Sept. 11.

“The cereals and canola that were least ripe, got hit the worst,” said Neil Whatley, a crop specialist with Alberta’s provincial Ag-Info Centre in Stettler. Both yield and quality stood to be affected through shrinkage and reduced germination, he said.

While many Alberta regions were reporting temperatures of -1 C to -3 C Thursday morning (Sept. 11), Whatley said the Peace River region and a few other areas hit -6 C.

Crops that were farthest along have weathered the situation the best, he said, adding this week’s forecast, which called for warm, dry temperatures, is a relief.

Snow also fell around Calgary last week, causing lodging on many fields.

“There’s going to be a push on to buy swathers, and use vine-lifters, stuff like that,” he said, noting canola that had already been swathed would be better insulated.

Next door, the situation is slightly better. Provincial crop management specialist Shannon Friesen, based in Moose Jaw, said Saskatchewan also got hit with frost Thursday night/Friday morning, but not as cold as Alberta’s.

“I know in Moose Jaw we only got down to -2 C Thursday night and Friday morning,” she said, adding another location in the province hit -4 C.

Temperatures are near the annual average, she said, but the difference is found in the late start to the year.

“This year we’ve been behind so everything hasn’t had a chance to catch up,” she said, adding the continued rain in late August was troublesome.

“We’re having reports of combines and other stuck machinery that can’t even get onto the field because it’s so soft. So certainly that’s a problem.”

The majority of the crop is reasonably advanced and ready to come off soon but Friesen added there is still a significant amount of green crop too.

Excess moisture is a problem for some cereal crops, which will need to be dried down through aeration or dryers.

“Maybe the canola might be doing a bit better than others,” said Friesen.

Mildew sightings

Quality is an issue for Manitoba crops in certain regions, according to Anastasia Kubinec, a provincial oilseed specialist at Carman.

“Delayed harvest has prompted some sightings of mildew in the spring wheat,” she said, adding fusarium was also reported in some winter wheat as well.

Fortunately, she said, the frost that came Sept. 12-13 was a light one.

“Crops close to maturity weren’t affected at all. Soybeans were the most affected, maybe the odd cornfield, some green canola,” she said, adding flax crops are OK and sunflowers look “great.”

A lot of cereals have been coming off “tough,” however, so growers have already begun using aeration systems or dryers.

Forage crop specialist Glenn Friesen, also at Carman, said the frost didn’t affect forages that much, but he still had concerns over the amount of moisture in Manitoba fields.

“If the swath sits wet for too long, then mould starts to set in and it’s a real problem,” he said. “Ideally you have some dry conditions after that, so the plant dries down to a safe moisture level.”

Some producers may soon begin to bale their hay before the hard frost arrives, he added.

— Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.



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