Wet fields muddy seeding outlook

Rain proves to be a major setback for many farmers in central and northern parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan

Denis Guindon started seeding on May 11, which is the exact same date he was done last year.

Two days after he hopped on the tractor his already soggy farm near Falher, Alta., received 50 millimetres of rain. It shut him down for a week.

He got going again on May 21 for a couple of days and then received another 38 mm of moisture.

Guindon was finally back in fields May 26 but the conditions were less than ideal.

“I’m not doing a good job. I’m not happy with it. But I’ve got to go mudding it in,” he said.

The low spots of fields that were seeded are full of water and sloughs are expanding.

His peas had emerged and he was in the midst of seeding wheat as of May 26, but he hadn’t even started putting canola in the ground.

Guindon figures he will be three to four weeks behind getting his canola planted. His biggest concern is that the late crop will succumb to a fall frost.

Some friends and neighbours are in worse shape. He knows guys that just got started on May 23. Others were busy re-seeding some of this year’s crop or waiting to harvest what remains from 2016.

And it’s not just a Peace region issue. Guindon’s brother, who works as a hired hand on a 14,000 acre farm near Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., has been stuck in mud eight times this spring. The guy he works with has been stuck nine times.

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Unusually plentiful May rain in the prime canola growing regions of Alberta and Saskatchewan has set back the development of Western Canada’s top crop.

Much of central and northern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan received between 15 and 65 mm of rain last week. It fell on land that in many cases was already saturated.

It has been wet in northeastern Saskatchewan as well where 87 percent of the oilseed crops that had been seeded were behind normal development, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture.

Shawn Senko, the Canola Council of Canada’s agronomy specialist for northeastern Saskatchewan, said canola would ideally be seeded before the beginning of June in his area but many guys were just getting rolling as of May 29.

Senko said there is incredible variability in seeding progress in the northeast. Some guys are clipping along, while others hadn’t turned a wheel.

He estimates the farms that are really wet are two weeks behind normal. Crop that did get planted is delayed in development due to the cool weather. It is just emerging.

If conditions were ideal, it would be in the two- to three-leaf stage of development.

The late start may or may not have an impact on yields and production.

“It could mean almost nothing or if we do get that blasting heat or early frost, it could mean a lot. It’s just a riskier situation to be in,” said Senko.

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Some farmers scoffed at Saskatchewan Agriculture’s estimate that five percent of the province’s projected crop area will go unseeded due to excess moisture. They think it will be much higher.

Senko isn’t sure what to think because conditions are so “pockety” this year. But he knows growers can “pound in” a lot of crop in a hurry and there were still three weeks to the crop insurance deadline as of May 29.

Manitoba’s planting is going well but only about half of Alberta’s canola crop was planted as of May 23, which is below the five-year average.

Seeding progress was about one-third complete in the northeastern, northwestern and Peace regions of the province where it has been particularly wet.

Mark Cutts, crops specialist with Alberta Agriculture, said one of the biggest concerns with a delayed canola crop is that it may be flowering during the heat of July and that can reduce yields.

But he said it’s too early to get overly concerned.

“We don’t know what the summer is going to be like, so we could slip through without a big problem,” said Cutts.

However, AccuWeather is calling for hot and dry weather during summer culminating in drought in central and northern Alberta where the crop is late getting planted.

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