Flooded southeast Manitoba crops under threat

Initial reports suggest many farmers could soon be filing crop insurance claims

The final fate of flooded fields in southeastern Manitoba has yet to be determined, but initial reports aren’t good with the likely result that many affected insured farmers will submit crop insurance claims.

“Approximately 20 to 30 per cent of the land in southern districts (of eastern Manitoba) was still unseeded and will now likely remain so due to the flooding,” Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development (MARD) said in its June 9 crop report. “Some July-planted greenfeed may occur on these unseeded acres if the land is able to dry out over the coming weeks.

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“Crops already seeded in the worst affected areas will likely drown out as whole fields are under water. Pastures and hayland in affected areas are also flooded and forage productivity is expected to be severely impacted. First cut will not be occurring in these areas.”

Why it matters: Thousands of acres of crop and hayland have been flooded in southeastern Manitoba due to recent heavy rains on already wet soil. Many acres are too wet seed and won’t be dry enough to plant by the June 20 crop insurance deadline. Meanwhile, many seeded crops, as well as forage and pasture, will likely be severely set back or destroyed by flood waters.

The R.M. of Stuartburn has been hard hit with more than 150 mm of rain in some areas after a storm last weekend washed out roads, flooded fields and is now threatening homes.

MASC’s Management Plus website shows last year that 129 farmers in the municipality insured 13,094 acres of crops, including 5,085 acres of forages.

Farmers with crop insurance are eligible for Excess Moisture Insurance (EMI) if it’s too wet to seed before the June 20 seeding deadline set by the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC), which administers the federal-provincial crop insurance (AgriInsurance) program in Manitoba.

Farmers enrolled in crop insurance automatically have coverage of up $50 an acre with a standard five per cent deductible (in acres), but can buy coverage of $75 and $100 an acre. However, buying additional coverage for this spring had to be done last fall.

Insured seeded fields destroyed by flooding could put farmers in a claim position, David Koroscil, MASC’s manager of claim services said in an interview June 9.

“If it’s a total loss and it’s total acres of that crop we can finalize your claim at that point in time,” he said. “If it remains too wet we would honour your full coverage for the year.”

A crop insurance payment is triggered only when the production of an insured crop falls below the farmer’s insurance coverage. So, for example if flooding destroys 100 acres of a farmer’s wheat production, but he or she harvests a bumper crop on their remaining wheat acres, matching or exceeding their insurance coverage, there will be no crop insurance payment.

The same applies with insured forage crops, Koroscil said.

Crop insurance covers total production for insured crops on a farm, not each field individually.

While farmers have often said they would prefer field-by-field coverage, MASC officials have said premium costs would be too high, reflecting the much higher risk of payouts.

Farmers who can re-seed drowned fields by June 20 are entitled to a re-seeding benefit of 25 per cent of the coverage for the crop they are re-seeding, Koroscil said.

If the farmer can re-seed by the deadline but chooses not to they are entitled to 50 per cent of the coverage, he added.

This option gives farmers more management flexibility. Some farmers may feel it’s too late to seed and not worth the risk.

The deadline for planting insured greenfeed is July 15, with reduced coverage, Koroscil said. Farmers can seed greenfeed even if they have received a payout because their crop was destroyed by flooding, he said. However, to be eligible to insure greenfeed, farmers will have had to have selected it as an insurable crop, Koroscil added. Some farmers only select crops they know they are going to grow, even though selecting all crops for potential coverage doesn’t cost any extra. Farmers only pay premiums on the crops they grow, he said.

How long newly seeded or seedling crops survive under water depends on the crop and the weather, says information posted on MARD’s website. Seeds and seedlings are living organisms and need oxygen to live.

“(W)ithin 48 hours of being oxygen-deprived, chances of survival are limited,” the site says.

“To combat excess water and disease, drainage within one to two days will increase the chances of survival. Most annual crops can withstand 24 to 48 hours in waterlogged conditions and up to seven days. In general, grasses are more tolerant than legumes. In cereal crops, oats are the most tolerant, then wheat, and then barley. In legumes faba beans followed by soybeans are most tolerant, with field beans and peas considerably less tolerant.”

Cool water and soil temperatures will help flooded crops survive better than hot temperatures, the site says.

After the water is gone examine the colour of the seedlings’ growing points.

“The stem germinating out of the seed (radicle and coleoptile) should appear white or cream coloured,” the site says. “If no germination has occurred, seeds can be cut in half to determine if turgor pressure is still present. If the seed is extremely soft and does not hold form, it probably won’t survive. Surviving plants will resume growth within three to five days after the water recedes.

“Evaluate plant population and uniformity and weigh out what the crop stand left will potentially yield versus a replanted crop at this later date,” the site advises.

“An additional nitrogen application may be necessary in fields that show signs of yellowing or uneven growth. A late test for nitrate can determine if more nitrogen is needed.

“Maintain a good weed control program so that crop plants are not robbed of nutrients and moisture later in the season.”

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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