Windstorm sandblasts crops

Winds of up to 100 kilometres an hour toppled granaries, uprooted trees, ripped off shingles and sandblasted crops in south-central Manitoba May 14.

In the aftermath, around 400 reseeding claims were submitted to the Manitoba Agricultural Service Corporation’s (MASC) insurance division as of May 18, said David Van Deynze, manager of claim services.

“Canola, by far, accounted for most of the claims,” he said. “Cereals can handle those conditions better.”

The corporation doesn’t know yet how many acres those claims represent or how many will result in reseeding, Van Deynze said.

There were fewer claims farther west, despite strong winds there too. Van Deynze suspects canola in that area was seeded later and therefore less of it had emerged.

Before ripping up a crop and reseeding farmers need to make a claim and ideally have a corporation adjuster assess it, he said. However, if a claim has been registered, but not assessed farmers can reseed but must leave a minimum 10-foot-wide strip the length of the field on fields of 40 acres or less. Strips can be as wide as the farmer’s air seeder making seeding more convenient after the field has been adjusted.

The corporation’s reseeding benefit is 25 per cent of the farmer’s per-acreage crop insurance coverage. So a farmer with $350-an-acre coverage on canola is entitled to $87.50 an acre if his or her crop has been destroyed and needs to be reseeded.

If the corporation determines a farmer qualifies for a reseeding benefit, it’s still the farmer’s choice whether to leave the crop or reseed, Van Deynze said.

There are lots of factors to consider, said Anastasia Kubinec, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives’ oilseed specialist. Eight to 10 canola plants per square foot is the optimal plant population to maximize yield potential, she said. According to the Canola Council of Canada as few as two herbicide-tolerant plants per square foot can still produce a decent crop, but with most of Manitoba being dry, Kubinec recommends having at least four.

“I’m assuming when we do get a rain the weeds will be coming out of the ground with full vigour and you want to have a few plants there that will be able to branch out and help crowd out the weeds and then give you a pretty good stand,” she said. “With two you may have to be a little more diligent on your weed control just because you have so few plants there. Canola branches out when we have good moisture conditions and right now we really don’t have good moisture conditions.”

Farmers thinking about ripping up poor crops of canola might also want to consider reseeding wheat, barley or oats if it’s still dry, she said. Cereals can be planted deeper into moisture. Canola planted a half-inch in many fields right now won’t germinate until it rains.

“There’s a risk those crops could be stranded,” Kubinec said. “It might be better to plant wheat. It will be up fast and have a good canopy.”

While it’s still not too late to plant canola, yields, on average, fall when the crop is seeded later than the third week of May, Kubinec said. Hot temperatures in July often stresses canola while it’s flowering.

Seed for some of the most popular canola varieties could be in short supply or sold out. When forced to select another variety farmers should look for ones that have the same attributes that attracted them to their first choice, and then seek them out among the varieties that are still available, Kubinec said.

High winds that whipped and sandblasted canola crops this month weren’t the only things hurting young canola crops. Seeding diseases and flea beetles have taken a toll too, she said. Early planting, followed by delayed emergence are likely to blame.

“Some of the canola seeded in April sat in the ground for two or three weeks,” Kubinec said. “Seed treatments have a best before date. They wear off.”

Unfortunately when some canola fields did finally emerge they were hit by hot, dry, windy conditions.

The canola plots Kubinec seeded April 5 at Carman took 20 days to emerge. Plots seeded April 19 and May 4 emerged after 13 and 10 days, respectively.

The plants that took 20 days to emerge had very little insect and disease protection left after breaking the surface. The canola planted April 19 had more protection and is at the same crop stage as the plot planted two weeks earlier.

A mild winter, followed by an early spring, allowed farmers to seed earlier than normal. As farm sizes become larger, farmers have more acres to cover in a short seeding window. So they often plant early, fearing wet weather could delay progress later on.

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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