Heavy snowfall puts brakes to Manitoba harvest

WINNIPEG (MarketsFarm) – Harvest operations throughout most of Manitoba ground to a dead stop as two weather systems dumped large amounts of snow during the Thanksgiving long weekend, according to Manitoba’s Agriculture’s latest crop report.

Manitoba was hit with the same cold front that swept across the Prairies towards the end of last week, which brought rain and snow. Immediately after, a Colorado Low moved in. This brought more snow to the province, which created the largest power outage in Manitoba’s history, according to media reports.

Those reports said the electricity has remained knocked out areas such as the Rural Municipalities of Portage la Prairie, North Norfolk, Grahamdale and West Interlake, largely because Manitoba Hydro continues to deal with hundreds of downed poles and toppled towers. Even with the added assistance of out-of-province power crews, electricity was likely to take until next week to be fully restored. That has meant bin aeration, grain drying and potato storage heating and ventilation that’s dependent on electricity can’t operate.

Prior to the storms, Manitoba farmers pushed the harvest to 74 percent complete as of the week ended Oct. 14. However, that remained under the three-year average of 88 percent. Overall, spring wheat was at 95 percent complete, three points under the average, while canola was at 80 percent and seven points behind. Soybeans made it to 30 percent done, far below the average of 77 percent. Grain corn reached five percent, about a quarter of the average.

In several parts of Manitoba, farmers aren’t expecting to return to their fields until the ground is frozen. Despite the snow, in several areas crops remained standing, although there were numerous reports of lodging.

The southwest region received upwards to 70 centimetres of snow. Farmers managed to get in two or three days of harvesting. Within the region, between 50 to 75 percent of the canola has been taken off the fields. About 85 percent of the spring wheat has been harvested and the combining of corn had just started.

In the northwest, the canola harvest was at 80 percent complete, with spring wheat at 95, soybeans at 40 and grain corn at five. With the exception of the area around The Pas, all field operations stopped due to the snow.

In central Manitoba there was up to 65 cm of snow in the Red River Valley. The spring wheat harvest was furthest along at 97 per cent complete, followed by canola at 85, soybeans at 45 and grain corn at five.

Eastern Manitoba had up to 75 millimetres of rain plus snowfall reaching 40 cm, which added to the region’s flooding woes. Any crops harvested needed to be put through grain dryers or into aeration bins. Before last week’s precipitation 98 percent of the spring wheat was harvested and canola hit 95 percent done. Soybeans reached 20 percent complete and grain corn was at five percent.

The Interlake received 10 to 50 mm of rain plus five to 50 cm of snow, with the greatest amounts along the eastern shore of Lake Manitoba. Spring wheat was 98 per cent combined with canola at 85 per cent. Soybeans were at 40 percent done and grain corn was at five percent.

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