Windiest weather in 30 years adds to farmer woes

High winds have seen farmers make 1,100 reseeding claims

The windiest spring since 1990, alone and in combination with other perils, has seen a jump in reseeding crop insurance claims this year.

As of June 18 there were just under 1,100 reseeding claims representing 264,000 acres, David Koroscil, Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation’s (MASC) manager of claim services said in an interview June 18.

“Of that, almost 200,000 (acres) is canola,” Koroscil said. “That’ll tell you it (the perils) will be… flea beetles, wind and crusting.

“Not knowing for sure, I would say the two biggest issues are wind and flea beetles. That’s provincially. Crusting applied more to the Red River Valley regions.”

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That’s also what Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development (MARD) has been hearing from farmers.

“We’ve had more phone calls mentioning wind damage, and wind damage in combination with other things such as knolls are a lot more damaged than what they would typically see,” Anastasia Kubinec, MARD’s manager of crop industry development said in an interview June 16.

Why it matters: This spring much of agro-Manitoba was a lot windier than normal, adding to other problems farmers faced including a cool, slow start to the growing season.

Every spring farmers struggle to get the right conditions for spraying, but this year has been more challenging, she said.

“There doesn’t seem to be the breaks (in the strong winds),” Kubinec said.

Since June 4 reseeding claims, and the acres affected, have doubled from 480 on 130,000 acres. However, with just a few days left before the June 20 seeding deadline, reseeding claims were only slightly about the five-year average of 1,075.

(There were few reseeding claims due to recent flooding in the southeast because most fields were still too wet to reseed. Moreover, the area has a lot of acres of hay and pasture relative to annual crops, Koroscil said.)

The record for reseeding claims — 2,638 — was set in 2015 following a widespread frost May 30 and a snowstorm May 17.

While many Manitobans suspected this spring was windier than most, retired Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Rob Paola confirmed it in a tweet (@robsobs).

“There may have been other years that were windier, but back to 1990, according to this data, there hasn’t been a windier period for mid-May to mid-June than this year (at Winnipeg’s airport),” Paola said in an interview June 16.

The same holds for Carman, Portage la Prairie and Brandon, he added.

“Keep in mind that is the average wind speed at Winnipeg airport throughout the day and night,” he said. “I think it comes out to 13 miles per hour (21 kilometres per hour)… which doesn’t seem very strong, but taken as an average over a whole day in this case that’s fairly strong… and as it turns out the highest over that period of time in at least 30 years.”

April and May are typically the windiest times of year in southern Manitoba, but the trend continued into June this year, Paola said.

Big difference

It wasn’t just a little bit windier than normal, David Phillips, Environment and Climate Change Canada’s senior climatologist, said in an interview June 17. The average daily wind speed at the Winnipeg airport mid-May to mid-June is normally around 17 kilometres an hour. This year’s average of 21 is 23 per cent higher.

“Even one kilometre can be a huge difference because it’s a wind that’s blowing morning, noon and night,” Phillips said. “This is an average for the whole day, not just when the winds were strongest…”

May 1 to June 16 this year was the windiest in agro-Manitoba in the last 13, based on data collected by MARD through its network of weather stations, Timi Ojo, MARD’s agricultural systems modeller, said in an email June 17.

The mean wind gust May 1 to June 16 this year was 41.2 kilometres an hour compared to the previous 13-year average of 39.06.

During the same period the mean wind speed was 16 kilometres an hour versus the 13-year average of 13.9.

Chuck Fossay wasn’t surprised to hear it was the windiest spring in at least 30 years.

“Usually you get a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening where you could spray, but it seems this year we’re getting winds five or six days every week,” the Starbuck farmer said in an interview June 17.

He was caught up with spraying, but partly because so many fields were reseeded following a pounding rain May 23 that crusted the soil causing poor germination.

MARD weed specialist Tammy Jones knows farmers have had trouble applying herbicides because of the wind this year.

“With the limited spraying that I have to do I have found it harder to find the right time to spray this year than I have in the past,” she said in an interview June 16.

Herbicide efficacy has been reduced because wind, heat and dry soils have stressed weeds resulting in less herbicide absorption, Jones said.

“What I found is certainly in the month of June there were a number of days that the peak winds… were typically 75 to 81 kilometres per hour,” Phillips said. “(T)he peak gusts occurred on a number of different days. For example, one station it was June 4, another was June 7, another June 12, another was June 14 another was June 15. So it wasn’t just one rip-roaring wind… There were times when it was blowing strongly on several days.”

Winds are caused by warm and cold air “duking it out,” Phillips said.

“You get these low-pressure systems that are wound up and all the isobars are nicely packed…” he said.

“When you look at some of the weather systems that create the strong winds they were deeper. The central pressures were lower than they normally would be for that time of the year. The weather systems seem to be well defined. They were more classic, textbook examples of strong wind weather events.”

The good news is typically by early July it’s less windy in Manitoba, with the exception of during thunderstorms.

“Hopefully, this episode of strong winds eases off shortly,” Paola said.

That’s what the weather models are predicting, Daniel Bezte, the Manitoba Co-operator’s weather columnist, said in an interview June 17.

“But sometimes the pattern keeps going.”

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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