Analyst’s Prairie tour sees wide crop variability

After a 4,500 kilometre tour of the Canadian Prairies, Bruce Burnett, director of markets and weather with Glacier FarmMedia confirmed what many suspect.

Crop yields potential in Western Canada is highly variable and production will be less than in recent high production years.

“Variable is the word this year,” he said.

Burnett covered large parts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, but did not make it to the Peace River region.

“For central and northern areas we’re probably looking at average, but when I say average, average is not the past couple of years. It will be significantly below the last couple of years, depending on the region that you are in.,” he said.

“There will be below average yields in the south for sure.”


If the weather remains stressful, crop prices could see another rally.

He saw a wide range of crop conditions.

In northern areas of Alberta and Saskatchewan that were wet in the spring many fields show poor crop establishment. There is more unseeded area than usual. But the area has been on a storm track that has delivered rain through the growing season that is benefiting crops.

Crops in Manitoba, broadly speaking, are OK, but they will not produce the types of high yields seen in the past two years, he said

In southern Saskatchewan where heat and drought are a concern crops are under serious stress.

Generally, central areas that had good moisture reserves are hanging in, but with the recent heat are showing stress.

“July has been two to three degrees Celsius above normal. We are seeing quite a few days up in the 30s so we are seeding stress to the crop,” he said.

“For the most part, we are living off of last year’s big rains. If it is dry for the next two or three weeks, it is not going to be an average crop there.”

Areas south of the TransCanada highway in Saskatchewan have among with most serious problems.

Burnett saw heat blasting in canola and likely a number of canola crops in that region are going to be cases for crop insurance.

Because durum acreage is concentrated in this area its overall production could be severely curtailed.

Crop maturity in large parts of the Prairies is where it should be for this time of year but there are crops in northern areas where seeding was delayed that are behind and will need frost-free weather until Labour Day to fully mature, although he added that if recent heat continues, that could help those areas catch up.

As for prices, Burnett thinks that if the heat and dryness continue there is room for a rally.

The potential size of price increase would rise a lot if the western part of the U.S. Midwest, which already has less than average moisture, gets stressed by heat and dry weather. However, there is rain forecast for part of the Midwest over the next seven days.

Spring wheat has rallied a lot, largely due to the severe drought in the U.S. northern Plains.

“Their crop is beyond salvation,” Burnett said.

Spring wheat has a huge premium over hard and soft winter wheat. The winter wheat types are not in short supply so it is more difficult for them to rally.

They would have more upside if the American corn crop got into trouble. So far though, corn has not rallied much.

“The market is dialing in somewhere around 166-167 bushels an acre for U.S. average corn yield,” he said, noting that with the below normal rain in the western Midwest, that yield target might be hard to reach.

“The yield is being set in the next two to three weeks.

“If you see corn (prices) take off, wheat will too.”

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