Rain creates uncertainty for eastern Prairie farmers

CNS Canada — Wet weather continues to cause headaches for farmers in southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba — but other parts of the provinces may also be dragged into the mix.

Between 600,000 and one million acres of farmland in Manitoba could be left unseeded this year, according to Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

Speaking Tuesday, he said his own farm near Selkirk, Man. has also been impacted by excessive moisture, collecting three to four inches of rain so far. The situation is more serious in many other locations, with waterlogged fields reported as far northwest as Dauphin.

“It’s more likely than not we will have below-average crops with late planting. That’s what the stats tell us.”

According to Manitoba’s provincial crop report on Monday, overall seeding progress in the southwestern corner was estimated at 80 per cent, but just 30 to 40 per cent was completed south of Highway 1.

Just across the provincial border, the situation is much the same. Norm Hall, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), said the province’s southeast continues to get more and more rain.

A line of waterlogged areas stretches north through Yorkton up to Canora, Kamsack and Preeceville.

Acres will definitely be left unseeded, but at this point he’s not sure how many. Many farmers in those areas will likely turn away from crops such as canola in favour of shorter-season crops, he said.

“There will be oats going in; some guys will try flax instead of canola because it seems to handle frost a little better.”

Some farmers, he added, may also roll the dice and seed without crop insurance.

According to Chorney, the Manitoba crops that were seeded in time are coming along nicely, but growers hope some warm, dry weather sets in soon.

The late spring, he said, may have already convinced some producers not to plant soybeans.

“There were parts of the province that were just getting going at the end of May with seeding operations so some people think that acres might have been switched out of soybeans maybe (and put) into canola.”

Cereal crops, he expected, will get a lot of attention from producers who are starting to feel pressed for time to seed.

Whatever the decision, he said, an early frost this year would be deadly, as many crops will have to go in late. “If we get a frost in September, it would certainly jeopardize a lot of production acres.”

Producers in east-central Saskatchewan may also decide to go with greenfeed, Hall said, given the number of cattle operations in the area.

“So producers may be looking at filling their feed needs out of their grain fields.”

Hall said he recently spoke to a seed dealer about the availability of short-season canola and was told it was all gone.

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


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