While east suffers, crops in west reasonable

A farmer sprays a canola field west of Nanton, Alta., in mid-July. While crops are looking good in some parts of the Prairies, other areas are not faring well because of a late spring and excessive moisture. Temperatures near 30 C in southern Alberta over the past two weeks have not favoured canola, which thrives at cooler temperatures. |  Mike Sturk photo

Manitoba suffering most | Canola and pulses are faring well in the west and timely heat could increase wheat protein

Crop losses in waterlogged western Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan will be partially offset by better results in other parts of the Prairies, say analysts.

Canola crops are shaping up nicely in western Saskatchewan, said Clint Jurke, the Canola Council of Canada’s agronomy specialist for the region.

“If we keep getting some timely rainfalls, we actually could be in a very similar situation to where we were last year,” he said.

Jurke drove from Lloydminster to Swift Current and back last week and was encouraged by what he saw looking out the window.

There was hail damage and lingering stand establishment issues in some fields, but for the most part the crops looked good.

“You know what? The crops don’t look too bad,” he said.

“Hopefully the west will balance out some of the losses in the east.”

Canola crops in western Saskatchewan are now only about two days behind normal development after a late start to spring seeding.

Jurke’s focus is canola, but from what he has heard from colleagues and observed himself, other crops are faring as well if not better.

“The pulses are looking fantastic, as a rule, particularly through the west-central areas of Saskatchewan, and cereals as well look pretty good.”

Others do not share that vision. Larry Weber of Weber Commodities says the province’s pulse crops are under siege from diseases like root rot. He estimates Saskatchewan may lose 20 to 40 percent of its peas and lentils.

Errol Anderson, author of the ProMarket Wire newsletter, said two weeks of hot weather during flowering has trimmed yields in Alberta.

“We had enough heat here that we won’t have a bumper crop in Alberta. We’re going to have a good, solid, average crop,” he said.

According to the Alberta government’s crop report, 77 percent of the crop was in good to excellent condition as of July 15.

Anderson thinks it has tailed off since then.

“That very hot weather just sort of took the top off the crop,” he said.

However, the July heat should result in a high protein wheat crop, which may help offset some of the yield losses.

An average crop in Alberta combined with significant yield reductions and lost acres in western Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan will likely result in a total prairie crop that falls well short of original expectations, said Anderson.

Futures prices are falling because of expectations for big U.S. corn and soybean crops, but the smaller crop in Western Canada should lead to improved basis levels.

“These canola basis levels will be firm and potentially get firmer right through the spring of 2015,” he said.

The same goes for wheat.

Anderson said at this stage the best thing for growers who failed to lock in prices last winter is to do nothing.

“A lot of them have done nothing up until now and finally the strategy is working,” he said with a laugh.

Harry Brook, a crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture, said conditions are variable in his province.

“It’s your typical mixed bag for the summer. It’s certainly not as good as last year,” he said.

Brook believes it is shaping up to be an average crop province-wide with considerable variability by region.

Crops in southern Alberta look fantastic because of excellent moisture in a region that is usually dry.

Central Alberta is hit and miss. Two weeks of hot weather was too much for some canola crops in the region.

“That was enough to tip it over. That’s where you’re getting the flower blasting and pod abortion,” said Brook.

The biggest dryness concerns are in the province’s Peace region.

“Crops in the far north, they’re toasted. I don’t know how much of a crop they’re going to have,” he said.

Crops in the southern Peace region are better but still suffering. The Peace region accounts for 13 percent of the province’s seeded acreage for cereal and oilseed crops. A lot of canola is grown in the area.

Brook hopes central and northern Alberta receive timely rain in August and that temperatures do not soar above 30 C for a prolonged period.

The heat has pushed crop development to the point where it is no longer a concern after a delayed start.

“The crop is pretty much in the right zone at the right time,” said Brook.

“It caught up quite a bit.”

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