Slow crop emergence may have averted worst of late-May frost damage

Reseeding claims fewer than expected after long period of frigid temperatures, says MASC

Corn seedlings on the rebound after frost damage in a field near Ste. Rose du Lac.

Slow crop emergence may have saved the lives of a few canola plants after a hard frost hit most of agro-Manitoba on May 26 to 27.

“We maybe feared the worst, and I would say we’re pleasantly surprised to this point,” said David Van Deynze, Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation's (MASC) chief product officer.

Between May 27 and June 1, MASC had seen about 380 claims, said Van Deynze. The majority were for canola.

Provincial data shows that temperatures plunged as low as -9 C overnight May 26. The freezing temperatures lasted anywhere from one to 11 hours. South-central and southeastern Manitoba fared the best, seeing temperatures between -1 and -3 C. 

Temperatures, though not as low, dropped below zero again in many areas of the province the following night. 

Yet, damage from frost has been “relatively limited, considering the severity and duration of cold temperatures,” the province said in its June 1 crop report. 

“Most susceptible crops had not yet, or just barely emerged, meaning crop damage or reseed impact was smaller than expected,” it said.

Van Deynze said, as of June 1, it was seeing the most claims at its Headingley office, which covers territory west of Winnipeg and into the south Interlake. 

That area may have had slightly more advanced crops, Van Deynze said.

“I’m making the conclusion that there wasn’t a lot of canola or vulnerable crops up in the Interlake and northern part of agro-Manitoba because we’re not getting a lot of claims from there,” he said.

St. Francois Xavier farmer Gunter Jochum told the Co-operator they were reseeding about 75 per cent of their canola.

Near Elm Creek, Colin Penner reported they were replanting one canola field.

Some soybeans froze but “there are enough to still make a decent crop,” he said.

In the Interlake, producer Curtis McCrae said as of June 1 he was still scouting every day.

“The plants that were up are done, but I think we were less than 10 per cent up,” he said. “Same with our beans. Even some just below the surface froze.”

The Interlake saw some of the coolest temperatures the night of May 26, reaching -9 C at Narcisse and staying there for 11 hours, the province reported.

At Ste. Rose du Lac, northeast of Riding Mountain National Park, Robert Brunel reported that “things are bouncing back.” He posted a photo to Twitter of corn regrowing (see at top).

He’s seen neighbours reseeding, but hasn’t had to do so.

In the southwest, near Minto, Bill Campbell said his barley showed signs of frost damage. 

“It’s sporadic and I think it will handle it,” he said.

His canola hadn’t emerged at the time, he said.

Dry weather and wildly fluctuating temperatures have slowed emergence, said Dane Froese, provincial oilseed specialist. 

“Cold spells really slowed emergence if there was enough moisture to start germination, so later-seeded crops especially saw a slower start,” he said.

McCrae said emergence was “really slow.” 

“It’s been pretty stagey,” said Penner. “Some went into prime conditions, some into dry ground. We also noticed that the ground with more cereal residue had delayed emergence.”

Brunel said emergence had improved after they got about one inch of rain on the May long weekend. 

Across the province, most forages escaped with little to no significant damage and wouldn’t be delayed much, said John McGregor, extension specialist with the Manitoba Forage and Grassland Association.

“That is very good news as even with the rain that we did receive recently, pastures and forage fields are still very dry and suffering,” he said.

The June 1 crop report said pasture land and hay has suffered disproportionately from frost and lack of rain.

“Regrowth is stunted and grazing land is expected to suffer further,” it said.

Van Deynze reminded producers that if they intend to claim reseeding benefits, they must contact MASC before taking action. MASC needs to see the damage before it is destroyed, he said.

Many of MASC’s seeding deadlines are approaching or have passed. If the destroyed crop’s seeding deadline has passed, the producer may reseed that field with a different crop that has not passed its deadline.

About the author

Reporter

Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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