Soggy fields delay seeding

Conditions better further west | Seeding in some areas could reach record late date

Dan Mazier looks forward to June 1 because that is typically when seeding wraps up on his farm near Brandon.

This year he is 50 to 60 percent complete and there is no end of headaches trying to get the remainder of the crop in the ground.

“Last year we were a little bit later putting those late crops in but we were putting them into ideal conditions. It’s a totally different animal this year. We’re wet,” he said.

“We were talking about bringing the cultivators out but that doesn’t even work. Harrowing seems to be the best in our soils. You dry out that top, top layer.”

Mazier’s farm was already soggy when it received another 50 millimetres of moisture in a flash rainstorm on May 29. Water is literally oozing out of the hillside on one patch of land.

“I can’t drive anywhere near it. It’s just nuts,” he said.

Attempts at seeding have been bizarre with soil rolling up in front of tires and then squirting underneath.

“It was amazing, like you were in a constant wave,” said Mazier.

“It’s like cheese, is about the only way I can really explain it. Trying to cut cheese.”

Mazier has spoken to growers from Souris, Virden and Swan River who are facing similar to worse circumstances.

“It seems to be generally the whole western side of the province,” he said.

“It’s quite an expansive area.”

Based on his conversations and past experience, Mazier estimates there could be more land idled than the three million acres left unseeded in Manitoba during the floods of 2011.

“It would be about the same area if not a little bigger,” he said.

Bruce Burnett, CWB weather and crop specialist, estimates 60 percent of Manitoba’s crop was in the ground as of June 2. The situation improves as you move west across the Prairies, with Saskatchewan at 88 percent and Alberta essentially done.

He is particularly concerned about southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan.

“Those areas will probably go unplanted, portions of them at least anyways will go unplanted,” said Burnett.

“Farmers will be looking at maybe winter wheat for this fall rather than getting their entire intended area in.”

Growers are “nearing the end of the runway” with crop insurance deadlines for a number of crops. For row crops like corn and soybeans it has already passed.

Burnett believes soybean acreage will suffer greatly because it is concentrated in the region that is hardest hit and it is unlikely growers will tempt fate by planting beyond crop insurance deadlines for a crop that is so new to the Prairies.

Mazier thinks acres intended for soybeans and wheat will be switched to Canada’s Cinderella crop.

“I think you’re going to see a pile of canola go in,” he said.

“I switched wheat ground to canola ground just because I had the nutrients down already.”

Burnett said the 2014 crop is behind last year’s pace and will be one of the latest-seeded crops in the history of the Prairies.

What is most concerning to him is that a portion of last year’s crop was seeded early, offsetting the stuff that went in the ground late. That is not the case this time around.

“Everybody got off to a late start because of the winter. In aggregate, this is very late planting,” he said.

The good news is that above-normal temperatures over the past couple weeks helped with germination and emergence, so when the calendar turns to July 1, the crop may not be as far behind as the late seeding would indicate.

However, Burnett remains concerned about the backend of the crop year.

“We will have significant areas that are going to be very slow in terms of crop development,” he said.

“The thing I know this year is we cannot withstand an extensive frost on the Prairies that is anywhere earlier than normal.”

While growers have been blessed with open falls in recent years there is no guarantee that trend will continue, said Burnett.

The concern he has about crop quality doesn’t extend to yields. There is plenty of soil moisture to nurture the crops.

What is needed is normal to above-normal temperatures for the remainder of the growing season.

Mazier thinks there is going to be a whole lot of chatter about unseeded acres coming out of Western Manitoba starting around June 15, especially when farmers start crunching the farm safety net numbers.

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