Harvest is looking like spring — too wet.
Most of agro-Manitoba received rain last week, and again over the long weekend with more was forecast for this week, prompting concerns about harvest delays and deteriorating grades.
“I think everyone is pretty worried about this is affecting the quality of grain, especially wheat,” Keystone Agricultural Producers’ president Doug Chorney said in an interview from his East Selkirk farm Sept. 2. “So this is not what we needed and the forecast says we’re going to see more of the same until at least Thursday night.”
“I don’t think anyone is to the point of panicking, but I think there’s a lot of concern.”
Manitoba isn’t alone. Much of Western Canada is struggling with poor harvest weather, said Bruce Burnett, CWB’s weather and crop specialist.
“We’ve had two good harvest years in a row now,” Burnett said.
“Flat out that’s not going to happen this year. We’re going to see more No. 2 and No. 3 and far fewer No. 1 (Canada Western Red Spring wheat).
The main degrading factor will likely be sprouting, which results in a poorer loaf of bread.
“There is liable to be some fairly large discounts if it doesn’t meet the sprout specs because it’s not as easily blended as the other down grading factors,” Burnett said.
“If you’re fortunate to have some quality grain this year, it probably means some premiums… and vice versa. If you have poorer quality grain then maybe it’s not going to be quite as good a situation as it has been.”
Recent rains won’t undermine the quality of crops planted later because of the wet spring, but it’s still unwelcome, said Lionel Kaskiw, a farm production advisor with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development in Souris.
“The biggest thing in the southwest is a lot of producers are about a week away from starting to desiccate a lot of the cereal crops, so rain just makes the fields wet again so it’s going to be tougher to travel and get the desiccating done,” he said. “Really a rainfall now isn’t really helping us. We don’t need any rain.”
But a bigger worry in the southwest is frost. Weather forecasts Monday for the region were predicting lows of 3 and 4 C later this week, which means frost is a possibility.
“A lot of the crops need a couple of weeks to get them to the stage where a frost wouldn’t do much damage,” he said. “That’s why we see a lot of canola being swathed right now.”
But it’s not just the southwest hoping the frost stays away, Chorney said.
“I have canola I’m cutting right now but I have a fair bit of canola that is way too green to cut,” he said. “It’s worse in the southwest.”
It’s September, and farmers are getting nervous, Kaskiw said.
“You can really see the days getting shorter,” he said. “The grass is wet until dinner time and by seven or eight o’clock (at night) it’s starting to get tough already. It’s going to limit the amount of time we have to get the crop off.”
Chorney said he’s uneasy too.
“There’s not much to say but keep our fingers crossed because there’s a lot of harvesting to do everywhere in the province,” he said. “To be at that stage at this time of year makes me very concerned that if anything at all in the weather turns worse we’re going to be behind the eight ball, and it’s going to be a long drawn out harvest.”
The rains aren’t all bad though. They will help pastures and forage crops as well as later maturing crops such as corn and soybeans. However, both could have used moisture sooner in central and eastern Manitoba.