‘It’s remarkable’: Alberta canola survives fierce winds

Mannville, Alta. — After a massive windstorm on the eve of Oct. 17, swathed canola in Alberta’s northern regions was largely unscathed.

Keith Gabert, an agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada, said while some of the crop blew over and piled up, much of it hardly moved.

“We’re very fortunate (the windstorm) didn’t happen earlier when we had more crop out,” he said. “For the amount of wind we got, it’s remarkable that there was little blowing.”

Strong winds gusted upwards of 100 km/h in some areas here, putting some farmers who still had unharvested fields on edge.

Others, however, weren’t as worried.

Trent Clark, who farms south of Mannville, about 170 kilometres east of Edmonton, said he likely lost only about an acre.

“I only had 20 acres out. It was too green to harvest so I left it and surprisingly it’s in a well-sheltered area,” he said. “I knew the wind was coming but because I thought it was well-sheltered, I took the chance.”

Still, swathed canola on Clark’s farm converged and formed at least one two-metre-high pile due to the strong winds.

“It just rolled it up,” he said. “If you had a lot of piles like that it would be a real bugger.”

Clark’s neighbour to the west wasn’t so lucky.

Aurey Gutsch, who helps his dad farm, said he had a couple quarter sections of crop still in fields when the storm came.

Gutsch estimated at least 10 percent of his crop was damaged but he couldn’t say for certain until it’s all combined.

“You just don’t know until it’s in the bin,” he said. “It’s not as bad as I thought it would be, but I only drove by one field. I’ve seen some fields that look worse in the years past than the one I looked at today.”

Farmers farther north, where harvest is behind schedule, experienced only a few losses.

Winds there weren’t as fierce and lots of the canola lying in swaths was still wet due to recent rain and snow.

“A lot of these swaths that are still out there have been snowed on twice and they are still a little damp,” Gabert said, noting swathed rows settle in better when they’ve been out longer.

John Guelly, a director with the Alberta Canola Producers Commission who also farms near Westlock said having no damage to swathed canola means one less thing to worry about.

“One of my neighbours speculated he would have a lot of damage, but it’s far better than expected,” he said. “We had some rain a couple hours prior to the wind.”

As for crops that are still standing, Gabert said they appear to look fairly good.

“But those are difficult to assess until you actually get in there,” he said. “We also haven’t heard from any re-sellers or growers on how bad the wind damage was. Usually, if it’s a really large issue, our phones light up.”

Ryan Dechief, director of operations with Providence Grain Solutions in Gaudin, Alta., said he doesn’t expect this minimal damage to affect markets.

“The amount of damage would be a very, very small fraction of what is left, which is likely less than one percent of what’s out there,” he said. “I’ve seen lesser winds do a lot more damage to canola than I saw this go around.”

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