Rain hits hard across Prairies

Mervin Maryniak of Wadena, Sask., drove to Humboldt Sept. 10 to pick up parts for his swather just in case it stopped raining and he got a chance to use it.

Fifty millimetres of rain fell on his farm Sept. 9-10, bringing his total rainfall for the season to nearly 1,000 mm.

When he looks out at his fields, he sees water running in streams, a mess of weeds and cattails growing on the tops of hills.

“When you’ve got cattails growing on fields, you know you’ve got a problem,” said Maryniak, who has not seen such a wet season in his farming career.

He has learned there is no point in trying to swath or combine in rain-soaked fields.

“You end up getting stuck and frustrated.”

He planted only 152 of his farm’s 2,000 acres and has yet to harvest any crop.

“I haven’t even swathed.”

Grant McLean, crop specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, said 50 mm of unwelcome rain fell across much of Saskatchewan last week, halting an already slow harvest.

“It was a wet week,” McLean said.

Saskatchewan farmers have harvested only 13 percent of their crop, compared to the five-year average of 35 percent by this time in the season.Twenty-three percent of harvest is complete prairie-wide, compared to the five-year average of 50 percent.The chance of crop damage from frost increases as rain, drizzle and cool weather continues, especially in the later seeded crops. Fortunately, a significant portion of the oilseed crops has been swathed, reducing the risk of frost damage.”It won’t be an easy harvest, but it’s not a disaster yet,” McLean said.Rick Clark, general manager of the Louis Dreyfus elevator in Joffre, Alta., said while Alberta hasn’t received the same deluge of rain as Saskatchewan, there is not much more harvest progress.”We’re just sitting and waiting,” Clark said.All the wheat in the surrounding region is desiccated, the canola is swathed and farmers are waiting for the weather to improve so they can get into the fields.”When the weather does straighten out, most farmers in the area can go straight out and not worry about being bogged down in the fields.”Despite strong market signals, few farmers are willing to lock in prices because of the slow harvest. Farmers aren’t convinced they’ll get the crop off, he said, or are uncertain how it will grade.Light, localized frost has occurred across the Prairies, but no one is sure how the cool temperatures are affecting grain quality.Bruce Burnett, Canadian Wheat Board’s director of weather and market analysis, said while unwelcome rain has delayed harvest, it’s too early in the season to write off the crop.”It is not yet a disaster.”In 2004, farmers also fought late into the season to complete their harvest. That year, a widespread frost Aug. 20 severely damaged millions of acres of unripened crop. There had been no widespread frost damage this year, as of Sept. 13.It’s not all doom and gloom, Burnett said. The lack of widespread frost has allowed crops to mature, and much of the harvest in Manitoba and parts of the Peace River area is finished.A drought in the Peace lowered yields, but early harvested crops have excellent quality.”There are bright spots here and there,” Burnett said.”It’s certainly not yet a disaster, but certainly it’s one of our later harvests. Over the next three weeks things will be very critical for us in the Prairies.”

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