Frost further delays Prairie crops

(Resource News International) — Some much-needed moisture in parts of the dry growing regions of Alberta and Saskatchewan was received during the weekend in the form of snow, but the accompanying cool temperatures, felt right across the Canadian grainbelt, continued to slow the development of recently seeded grain and oilseed crops, according to an official with the Canadian Wheat Board.

Bruce Burnett, director of weather and crop surveillance for the CWB, said a combination of rain/snow fell in some of the previously dry western Saskatchewan/eastern Alberta areas, but most of that moisture fell south of the Trans-Canada Highway.

Some light amounts of precipitation did occur a bit north of that line, but it still missed a lot of the regions which really needed the moisture, especially in Saskatchewan, Burnett said.

The cool temperatures resulted in a frost in Manitoba’s growing regions, as well as in parts of western Saskatchewan and eastern Alberta, Burnett said.

Readings were said to have dropped into the -2°C to -4°C range in all three provinces, but the extent of the damage was not immediately known, Burnett said.

The impact on cereal crops was likely minimal, he said, especially if those crops were up and established.

“Some burnoff of the top leaves will occur, but the key portion of the plant will recover rapidly if more normal temperatures occur,” he said. “However, crops like canola that are more vulnerable may need to be reseeded.”

The damage will also be dependent on exactly how cold it got, the duration of the cold, and whether the crop was in a low-lying area.

“We may see some spotty patches of damage in the fields as a result,” he said.

Burnett said the biggest factor in the continuation of the cooler-than-normal readings is the fact that it continues to slow the development of all crops.

“I would estimate that the crops across Western Canada are easily a week to 10 days behind normal development, if not a bit more,” he said.

The slow development of crops in turn leaves them more vulnerable to a killing frost at harvest time, he added, adding that it’s all about what happens in the fall.

“Normally by the third week of June crops in general would be heading out,” Burnett said. “Crops are nowhere near that kind of development yet.”

New record lows were again established in southern Alberta overnight with readings ranging from -1.7°C to as cold as -2.7°C, according to a statement issued by Environment Canada.

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