Crop damage ranges after Westman floods

Cereals and soybeans seem to have mostly dodged drowning after flooding in the Westman area in late June and early July, but peas and some canola are struggling

Two weeks after record rains hit the Brandon and Minnedosa regions, some low spots still had standing water.

Overland flooding made for a dramatic picture from June 28 to July 1, with a string of storms bringing well over 200 millimetres of rain by official counts, and claims by some farmers near Rapid City and Rivers that rainfall at their farms was significantly more.

Why it matters: Bare patches of field around Brandon and Minnedosa tell the tale of overland flooding in the area earlier this month, but crop insurance doesn’t expect a wave of claims until fall.

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Depending on topography, portions of some fields were left under inches of water, while farmers struggled to access their fields after floodwater led to dozens of road and highway washouts, including 100 washouts in the Municipality of Oakview alone.

Cereal crops and soybeans seem to have weathered much of the excess water, producers in the area report, while crops like canola have much more mixed results and field peas have sustained considerable damage.

“Peas don’t like having wet ground, for sure,” said David van Deynze, vice-president of innovation and product support with the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC).

“But as much as anything it’s the growth stage of the crop. So crops like canola, the cereals, if they were a little more advanced, they seem to handle it a little bit better. If it was a little bit later seeded so they were quite small when that rain hit, then certainly they seem to be suffering a little bit more than some of the ones that were seeded a little bit earlier.”

MASC could not say how many acres of field peas were planted in hard-hit municipalities, although about 27,000 acres were reported in Risk Area 4 and Risk Area 6 — an area stretching from the northern tip of Prairie Lakes Municipality through the Municipality of Harrison Park in the north and from Prairie View Municipality to the northwest of the Municipality of Norfolk-Treherne from west to east.

Valerie Northam, who farms near Rapid City, says her farm was among those to report much heavier rainfall than the official count.

“Most of the grain crops, like your wheat and what not, for the most part are doing quite well with the rain,” she said. “There’s going to be places where there’s rain on the fields, but they’re doing much better than the canola, say.”

Fungal disease has also become a problem, she said, something that has been complicated by the difficulty many producers found attempting to access their fields. Aerial spraying companies in the area noted a distinct uptick in business due to the wet conditions in the second week of July.

The Northams were among those to find navigation difficult in the wake of the storms. Northam said they were stranded for the first three to four days following the rains, due to road damages.

At the same time, she added, the flooding around their farm could have been worse. The host of a Ducks Unlimited Canada wetlands project, Northam said the marshland and retention ponds on their property took the edge off the floodwater.

Calls premature

MASC has received few calls on drowned crops, van Deynze said — perhaps unsurprising as producers wait to see the overall yield impact of the water, something they will not know until fall.

“I don’t see any point in calling MASC now, because they’re just going to say, ‘well you need to harvest your crop and, if you’re under your coverage level, then we make up the difference,’” Ron Krahn of Rivers said a week after the rains.

Krahn said he does expect to eventually collect crop insurance on his peas.

Crop damage has been, “very dependent on crop,” he said the week following the storms. Soybean, sunflowers and wheat had come out of the moisture best, he said, while peas have been hard hit and canola ranges.

“It’s still a little quieter than one might expect,” Van Deynze said. “Most of the reason for that is producers need time to evaluate and, if it turns out to be potholes and relatively small acreages within their farms, it’s not at the time of year where they would call MASC unless they’re prepared to or wanting to work those acres up because weeds are starting to take over or whatever the case may be.”

Some producers have contacted MASC about greenfeed on those damaged acres, he noted. Greenfeed must have been planted by July 15 in order to be insured.

It is hard to say what kind of claims they might see come fall, he said.

The region was critically dry prior to the storms. Forrest, just north of Brandon, had seen only 59 millimetres of rain between April 1 and June 26, according to the province’s ag weather network.

“The reality is, depending on the type of farmland involved and it’s rolling country, sometimes the rains that we’ve had improves the yields on the knolls of the hills and the upper lands and sort of stuff and somewhat offsets the yield loss of the lower areas, so at this point, it’s much to early for us to predict what that might look like,” Van Deynze said.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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