Manitoba flooding delays seeding

It might be the long winter, or the waiting for the Red River to crest, but farmers south of Winnipeg aren’t in a congenial mood this spring, says Ian Forrester of Letellier, Man.

“Everybody is just bored and getting on each other’s nerves. We’re just fed up with it. We’ve had so much (flooding) in the last 10 to 15 years,” said Forrester, who farms 10 kilo-metres north of the U.S. border.

Like many farmers south of Winnipeg, Forrester is waiting for the land to dry so he can proceed with spring planting.

But water levels in the Red River, which are expected to exceed 2009 levels, the second largest flood in terms of water volume in the last 100 years, are rising more slowly than anticipated.

As of April 18, the Manitoba government was predicting the river to crest near Letellier April 25. If that transpires the peak flow will arrive about 10 days later than 2009.

Forrester knows the flood water will arrive later than 2009, because as of April 18, he could still drive to his farmhouse.

“We were boating in 2009 by April 12…. This (flood) we haven’t got water over our road yet,” he said, explaining that when the water rises, he needs to take a boat to get from his property to Highway 75, the main route between Winnipeg and the U.S. border.

Unless the flood water dries up quickly this year, Denis Houle, who also farms near Letellier, said he won’t be seeding until June.

Houle, who grows primarily soybeans, canola and wheat on his farm, said it’s hard to know how the flooding will affect his seeding intentions.

“Seeding is day to day with a flood because you seed when a piece of property is ready…. As for our seeding plans, that will change… depending on how things move.”

Like Houle, Forrester isn’t sure how the flooding will affect his seeding plans. But, he may have to forgo his plans to plant corn and soybeans.

Earlier this year, the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association and other organizations were expecting 700,000 acres of soybeans across the province, which would set a new record for Manitoba.

But the soybean acreage may drop if farmers in the Red River Valley choose a crop that matures more rapidly, Forrester said.

But Ingrid Kristjanson, Manitoba Agriculture farm production adviser in Morris, said producers might stick with their soybean intentions.

“There will still be soybeans that go in…. But people that were growing some of the longer season soybeans, they will be putting in (a different variety) with the shortest number of days to maturity.”

Looking at the areas in the Red River Valley, which are outside the primary flooding zone, Kristjanson said fields are “sopping wet.”

One bit of positive news, she said, is that a great deal of water has already drained off the land west of the Red River.

In previous floods water could not drain east toward the river because the flow was blocked by water that had spilled beyond the banks of the Red River.

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