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Sask., Man. farmers catch break in weather

Grain growers in much of farming Manitoba and Saskatchewan were able to get harvest back on track last week as weather conditions improved, the two provinces said in their weekly crop reports.

About 39 per cent of Saskatchewan’s crop had been harvested overall as of Sunday, up from 22 per cent the previous week, the provincial ag ministry reported Monday. That’s below the 2003-07 average of 58 per cent, the province said.

That said, all areas of the province need warm, dry weather to advance harvesting operations. Saskatchewan’s northwest was just 20 per cent finished with harvest, while the southwest is farthest ahead at 49 per cent.

Harvesting progress varies significantly between the major crops, with spring wheat at 25 per cent complete, durum at 28 per cent, canola at 33 per cent, lentils at 85 per cent and peas at 92 per cent, the province said.

Crops in Saskatchewan took damage mostly from weathering, birds, grasshoppers and sawflies during the week, the ag ministry added.

Race against frost

The potential for frost, meanwhile, is weighing on Manitoba grain growers, who caught a break in the weather last week after a wet previous week.

Temperatures dipped to -2°C in some areas of the province’s southwest on Saturday, the provincial ag, food and rural initiatives department reported. Further north, areas of the Swan Valley also reported slight frost on Sunday. Farmers in south-central and southeastern areas remain concerned about the possibility of a killing frost, especially for long-season and late-seeded crops.

Furthermore, crop quality has taken a hit in several areas due to previous weeks’ conditions. Heading toward the southwest corner of the province, fusarium levels are “higher than expected” in wheat, while north of the west end of Highway 1, wheat and barley swathed before recent rains are showing “serious sprouting damage.”

Much further north, however, cereals at The Pas are reported in good quality and showing above-average yields. Also in the province’s northwest, Swan Valley-area farmers report above-average yields and “variable” quality in wheat and good quality and above-average yields in canola, while in the North Parkland, average wheat yields and quality are reported.

Much of south-central Manitoba expects to wrap up its cereal harvest this week — except around Somerset and Pilot Mound, areas which received up to an inch of rain last week. Sprouting, bleaching and mildew are reported in remaining cereal crops, while fusarium levels “range widely.” Pod shattering has been reported in both swathed and standing canola due to high winds.

Southeastern Manitoba got some more rain last week, but farmers were able to at least harvest some crops compared to the previous week, allowing winter wheat seeding to start in recently-harvested canola fields.

Meanwhile, in the northern part of the Interlake region between Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba, wheat harvesting and canola swathing are both about 40 per cent done, while in the southern Interlake harvest overall is estimated at about 80 per cent complete, allowing winter wheat seeding to begin there as well. Many fields in the north remain too waterlogged for seeding or haying equipment to pass.

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