Numbers show devastation from May windstorm in Manitoba

Last year was terrible for canola in Manitoba.

Drought, heat, disease and insects hammered the crop, pushing the average yield down to 26.1 bushels per acre, according to Statistics Canada figures.

As well, provincial crop insurance shattered a record for wind claims, thanks to a freakish storm in May.

“There was $ 9,667,278 … in reseed benefits for wind related losses on 133,346 acres of crop,” said Doug Wilcox, Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp.’s manager for program development, insurance.

“(It) was the worst year in MASC’s history for wind related losses in the spring. The previous record was in 2002, when $2,212,412 were paid out in reseeding benefits for spring wind related losses on 60,069 impacted acres.”

Wilcox said canola fields represented 93 percent of the wind reseeding claims.

A May 14 windstorm in central Manitoba, with gusts exceeding 100 km-h, ripped canola seedlings out of the ground and propelled tons of topsoil into the air. The gale flipped over grain bins near Portage la Prairie and knocked down a wall at Winnipeg’s new football stadium.

The storm was so severe that NASA satellite cameras detected the dust clouds over Manitoba.

“Here is Manitoba soil on the move. So, we can see it from outer space,” said John Heard, a Manitoba Agriculture soil fertility specialist, who showed a NASA image of the storm during a presentation at a special crops seminar in Brandon March 6.

“This picture was taken in the afternoon (of May 14) and we know, at least in Carman, that our wind speeds didn’t peak until 9 p.m.”

The MASC reseed payment is 25 percent of the per acre coverage of the affected crop. Assuming a per acre coverage of $350, farmers would have received $87.50 per acre.

Excess moisture usually causes most of the reseed claims in Manitoba, while wind damage represents five percent of claims.

Wilcox said the May 14 storm boosted that figure substantially, with wind damage causing65 percent of the reseeding claims last year.

“It wasn’t just one windstorm, but it was probably mainly the one (storm).”

He said a severe storm with 100 km-h winds, right at peak seeding time, is unusual. Producers can’t do much to prevent soil or crop damage from such an extreme event.

Heard agreed that the May storm was a rare occurrence, but said growers can still prepare for windstorms at seeding time.

“(It’s) one of those catastrophic events. They’re very hard to plan for, but if you leave your residue anchored, and not just sitting on top (of the soil), that’s where you get protection.”

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