A gloomy forecast that’s calling for widespread rain and snow across much of southern, central and eastern Saskatchewan this week is threatening to drive another nail in the coffin of what’s already been a nightmarish harvest for many prairie farmers.
Environment Canada is forecasting rain, wind and a possibility of snow Oct. 3–5.
A storm system centred in Montana was expected to enter southern Saskatchewan early today before expanding across much of central and eastern Saskatchewan.
The federal weather agency said today that a major low pressure system that developed in southeastern Montana was spreading an area of rain into southern Saskatchewan.
“As this system intensifies and tracks very slowly northward, precipitation and strong northerly winds will intensify over much of the area tonight and early Tuesday,” Environment Canada said.
“Rainy and windy conditions will persist over much of southern Saskatchewan through Wednesday.”
Some areas of the province were expected to receive between 25 and 50 millimetres of rain before the skies begin to clear, probably on Wednesday.
Other areas, mainly in the southwest, could receive 50 to 75 mm of rain over a two-day period.
Rain was expected to turn to snow in some areas with accumulations of up to 10 centimetres possible.
News of a major low pressure system could not come at a worse time for Saskatchewan’s farmers, many of whom have been struggling to take off this year’s crop between showers, heavy dews and cool morning temperatures.
As of Sept. 26, approximately 70 percent of the 2016 crop had been harvested in Saskatchewan.
Harvest progress has been slow in many regions, hampered by generally damp conditions and daytime highs in the teens or low 20s.
In many areas, harvest operations had already ground to a halt before the most recent forecast.
Harvest crews that are still working are often unable to log more than a few hours at a time before tough conditions force them to shut down for the evening.
Growers in central regions — especially west-central Saskatchewan — are furthest behind the eight ball.
As of late last week, growers in west-central Saskatchewan still had roughly a third of their crop in the field.
Harvest progress in Saskatchewan’s Crop District 7B, which includes Kerrobert, Macklin, Wilkie and Biggar was just over half finished as of Sept. 26 with an estimated 44 percent of regional acres still in the field.
Many of the unharvested acres that remain are in the wettest areas, with surface water and saturated soil conditions posing potentially costly delays.
In those areas, straw and grain will be slow to dry even without additional rainfall.
Daryl Beswitherick, manager of quality assurance standards with the Canadian Grain Commission, said the 2016 harvest has already yielded a mixed bag in terms of wheat quality.
Grain quality usually diminishes in the latter part of the harvest season, he added.
As of today, the CGC’s harvest sample program had received close to 1,600 samples of red spring wheat.
Of those, 17 percent were graded No.1, 41 percent were graded No. 2 and 21 percent were graded No. 3.
“Obviously, the No. 1 is really low but … overall, it’s not a total disaster,” Beswitherick said.
“There is still lots of quality grain.”
In durum, out of 635 samples received, 12.4 percent were graded No. 1, 12.8 percent were graded No. 2 and 28.7 percent were graded No. 3.
The rest — roughly 46 percent of durum samples submitted — were graded No. 4 or lower.
In CWRS and CWAD, the number of samples downgraded due to fusarium was higher than normal.
A review of annual harvest progress reports in Saskatchewan suggests that the 2016 harvest, while not the latest, will be among the latest in the past decade.
Back in 2009, Saskatchewan farmers still had roughly one quarter of the crop left to harvest on Oct. 5.
In 2014, nearly 28 percent of the provincial crop was still in the field as of Oct. 5.
Saskatchewan is due to release its next provincial crop report on Thursday. That report will provide an estimate of harvest progress as of today.