Many crops may have dodged frost

Crop damage from an overnight frost in Saskatchewan earlier this month is still being assessed but appears minimal for some crops and potentially crushing for others.

Crops extension specialist Shannon Friesen said although the temperatures dropped quite low in some areas, the damage depends on how long the frost lasted and the location and maturity of the crop.

“We have heard even though the hardest frost was in the southern part of the province, it seems like damage was quite minimal unless you had some greener, later-seeded crops out there or of course any forage corn as well,” she said. “Of course, we don’t truly know until that crop starts to come off.”

Harvest was about half done province-wide by mid-September.

The frost struck overnight Sept. 7-8, breaking records that in some cases were 100 years old or more.

Environment Canada meteorologist Terri Lang said 20 records were broken and one tied.

“Some stations not only broke records, they shattered records,” she said.

The coldest spot was recorded in Coronach, in the far south, where the temperature dropped to -8.8 C and far surpassed the 1995 record of -1.5 C.

But cold temperatures were felt throughout the grain belt. Other weather stations that broke records were at Assiniboia, Elbow, Estevan, Kindersley, Last Mountain Lake Sanctuary, Lucky Lake, Meadow Lake, Moose Jaw, Outlook, Regina, Rockglen, Rosetown, Saskatoon, Scott, Spiritwood, Swift Current, Waskesiu Lake, Watrous and Weyburn. Yorkton tied its previous record.

The oldest record to fall was Regina’s from 1883.

In Alberta, the same event resulted in temperatures as low as -4.5 C in several locations, mostly in the southeast, Lang said.

Temperatures also fell below zero in Manitoba communities such as Brandon, Carberry, Dauphin, Shoal Lake, Melita, Pilot Mound and Roblin, she said.

“This was definitely focused over Saskatchewan,” she said.

Some farmers said their crops hadn’t been affected, while others posted video of crispy canola.

Devon Walker near Lashburn in the northwest posted on Twitter that his canola crops froze solid for seven hours and were popping open the next morning.

At nearby Maidstone, Scott Owens said he was swathing in frost at 10:30 p.m. and it froze until at least 5:30 or 6 a.m.

“Our cereal and pulse crops are OK,” he said. “Our canola, anything that wasn’t swathed is going to be affected. I don’t think there’s going to be damage to yield but there could be quality issues.”

Owens said his standing canola was difficult to swath after the frost and green seed is possibly going to be a problem but it will be a few weeks before he knows the full extent of the damage. He began harvesting peas Sept. 10 and said he was about 10 percent done by Sept. 14.

Friesen said the north is always a little bit behind in terms of crop maturity so some later-seeded crop will be damaged.

“It’s likely not going to be as widespread as we might have thought at first,” she said, referring to the large affected area. “There was some crop that was a lot more mature than expected so damage will vary quite considerably.”

If the event had occurred earlier it would have been more significant, she said. The heat in August has caused other problems but it probably advanced the crop enough to limit frost damage, she said.

That heat has limited expected yields especially in the south and east central areas.

“What they had thought even a month ago is not actually what they’re pulling off now,” Friesen said.

About a quarter of the province’s canola crop was off before the frost and was yielding an average of 35 bushels per acre.

Spring wheat was about one-third harvested and yielding an average 45 bu. per acre. Other yields so far include 38 bu. per acre for durum, 67 bu. per acre for barley, 39 bu. per acre for field peas and 1,548 pounds per acre for lentils.

“Hopefully, as we take more of the canola off those numbers improve but it’s certainly not what we were hoping for that crop,” Friesen said of the numbers.

Quality issues are being reported but nothing like last year when it rained for weeks and caused sprouting and other problems.

There have been reports of lower bushel weights in barley and wheat, and some shriveled seeds, Friesen said.

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