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Frost spreads to Sask. as harvest lags

Winnipeg | Reuters –– Freezing temperatures spread on Friday into Saskatchewan — Canada’s biggest producer of spring wheat and canola — chilling some of the country’s most immature crops.

Temperatures dipped to between -3 C and -1 C in parts of Saskatchewan, while other areas stayed above freezing, according to Environment Canada data. Temperatures of -2 C and lower that last for a few hours can damage developing crops, although the extent of harm depends on their stage of growth and other factors.

Late seeding in some areas and cool, wet summer weather delayed crop development and pushed back the harvest on the western Prairies, which account for most of Canada’s spring wheat, canola, barley and oat production. Frost can halt a plant’s growth, resulting in lower crop quality if it has not fully matured.

Even so, Canada expects to produce its third-largest canola crop on record and second-largest spring wheat crop in 15 years, according to Statistics Canada.

ICE Canada November canola futures rose 0.6 per cent in morning trading after four straight losses.

The market took support from “a little more frost on the pumpkin in maybe some areas that are vulnerable to some damage,” said Keith Ferley, a commodity trader at RBC Dominion Securities. Most reported frosts were only slightly below freezing, however, and traders will have to wait to find out the extent of damage, he said.

At Weyburn in southeastern Saskatchewan, where floods delayed planting in spring and pushed back crop maturity, the temperature fell to -3 C for at least two hours, according to the national weather service.

The temperature also reached significant lows further northwest at Regina (-2.2 C), Watrous (-3.3 C) and Saskatoon (-1.8 C).

The Saskatchewan government said on Thursday that 14 per cent of its crops were harvested as of Monday, down from the usual pace of 26 per cent.

The neighbouring province of Manitoba mostly stayed above freezing. Frost touched parts of Alberta, which already received its first significant frost on Thursday.

Environment Canada forecasts chilly, but mostly above-freezing temperatures for the Prairies during the weekend.

— Rod Nickel is a Reuters correspondent based in Winnipeg.

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