Prairie seeding seen 10 days to three weeks behind

Farmers in Western Canada’s waterlogged crop belt expect to plant their crops 10 days to three weeks behind schedule, raising the risk of lower yields and quality, a Canadian Wheat Board official said Monday.

Snowfall late last week and through the weekend worsened wet conditions that have kept tractors idle this spring.

Planting delays leave crops dependent on close to ideal weather the rest of the growing season, said Stuart McMillan, crop and weather analyst for the CWB.

“The later we get we are increasing the risk of problems with frost and delayed maturity, just like we saw last year,” McMillan said, adding that planting has not started.

The yield impact from delayed seeding is greater for canola than spring wheat, he said.

Canada is the world’s leading shipper of canola, spring wheat and oats, and reaps most of its production in the west. Low Canadian production levels of top-quality milling wheat last year due to cool, wet weather contributed to tight global supplies and contributed to a significant spike in prices.

Delays may be shortest in Manitoba, McMillan said, and longest in some areas of northeastern Saskatchewan, where farmers grow canola and oats.

Planting in southwestern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta is usually under way by mid-April, but weeks of colder than usual weather has slowed spring melting, he said.

Melting is more advanced in Manitoba, but flooding from the Red and Assiniboine rivers has put seeding behind schedule.

Agriculture officials from the three Prairie provinces said last week that planting appears to be two weeks behind so far.

Conditions vary

In parts of northeastern Saskatchewan, the worst of spring flooding is over and seeding may start by early to mid-May, only about a week behind schedule in that region, said canola and grain farmer David Spencer.

Further south and east of his farm at Tisdale, however, Spencer saw large drifts of snow while traveling early last week.

“It’s still winter there. You could have tobogganed anywhere,” said Spencer, a director with Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan. “There’s anxiety right now.”

After a slight chance of rain on Monday, weather looks dry this week across the Prairies, climbing to average temperatures near the weekend, according to Environment Canada.

Snow blanketed much of the Prairies from Thursday through the weekend, dumping seven to 15 centimetres (2.8 to 5.9 inches) across most southern Alberta areas, said Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with the government forecaster’s Winnipeg office.

Southern Saskatchewan generally got between 10 and 30 cm during the weekend, with a high of 60 cm recorded south of Moose Jaw near the Canada-U.S. border.

Southern Manitoba accumulated 10 cm on average from Friday through Sunday, Hasell said.

The La Nina weather phenomenon looks to keep temperatures cooler than average into June, with some rainstorms, Hasell said.

That means Manitoba’s flooded Red River Valley may not dry out quickly, McMillan said.

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