Weekend rain threatens crop quality

Southern Sask., Man., soaked | Cereals and pulses are in trouble but oilseeds may escape damage

Late August rain has caused considerable quality damage to cereal and pulse crops in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, says an analyst.


“It’s especially going to affect the durum and the lentils,” said Derek Squair, president of Agri-Trend Marketing.


He is also concerned about malt barley, which was just starting to ripen when the three-day soaker arrived.


Environment Canada reports that many areas of southern Saskatchewan and southern and central Manitoba received 33 to 78 millimetres of precipitation last weekend.


There is anecdotal evidence that the totals could be higher than that, with one Twitter report of 216 mm of rain in the Interlake region of Manitoba.


Natalie Hasell, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the precipitation was the result of a Colorado low, which is unusual for this time of year.


“It is a little early for a Colorado low to be affecting the southern Prairies,” she said.


The low pressure system is usually more prevalent in late-September and October.


“It was a bit unnerving to have the system forecast for this time of year,” said Hasell.


The biggest accumulations of precipitation occurred when the heavy rain accompanying the Colorado low combined with thunderstorms.


“The compound effect of that is really uncomfortable,” said Hasell.


Alberta managed to avoid most of the moisture, but the central and northern regions of the province did have frost warnings last week.


Squair said the excess precipitation will cause bleaching in durum crops in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.


“It loses that shiny amber colour and turns white and so it will go from a (No.) 1 to a 3, possibly a 4,” he said.


Sprouting in pulse crops will cause cracked pea and lentil seed coats. Earth tag could also be an issue with pulses.


He anticipates chitting in malt barley crops, which will cause downgrading.


“It doesn’t germinate but it starts to sprout and that’s a degrading factor, so the malt barley will be in a lot of trouble,” said Squair. “The spring wheat will handle it better. It is probably going to go from a (No.) 1 to a 2 with that kind of rain.”


He is most concerned about durum and lentils because production of those two crops is concentrated in the area that received the unwelcome weekend rain. Malt barley and wheat production is more spread out across the Prairies.


Arlynn Kurtz, vice-president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said the rain will lead to harvest delays and difficulties.


“Crops were advancing quite quickly with that heat and maturing, but now with this rain it is actually going to make desiccating crops very difficult,” he said.


Kurtz said the heavy rain was accompanied by strong wind in his area near Stockholm, Sask.


“The cereal crops are lodged really bad, which is going to make cutting very difficult, and if it continues to stay wet, I see a repeat of 2010 with equipment being stuck all over the place.”


He also worried about the condition of the grid roads in an area that started the season wet and has stayed that way.


“Some of the roads were just getting to the point where there was optimism that people could get down some of these secondary roads to their fields, and now I’m sure they’re going to be under water again.”


Kurtz agreed with Squair that cereal crops will be downgraded. 


“Definitely anymore of this kind of weather and we’ll start to drastically reduce quality,” he said.


Kurtz said harvest rain does not cause as much damage to oilseeds.


He worries that a sizeable portion of the pea and lentil crops could end up as feed quality if the rain persists.


“If that happens, it would affect the feed price of grain. It will go down drastically because there will be so much around.”


Squair said the excess moisture will also downgrade crops in Montana and portions of North Dakota.


It means farmers lucky enough to harvest top quality cereals and pulses could see attractive price premiums for their crops this fall.


Squair fears the late-August rainfall could have a lingering impact, contributing to the ongoing annual threat of spring flooding in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

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