September 11, 2014 / 1:03 PM / 3 years ago

Frost hits crops in Canadian province of Alberta

Calgary firefighters move trees that damaged cars, blocked roads and fallen on power lines during a summer snow storm in Calgary, Alberta, September 10, 2014.Todd Korol

WINNIPEG Manitoba (Reuters) - Freezing temperatures covered much of the western Canadian province of Alberta early on Thursday, raising the risk of damage to wheat, barley and canola crops that did not fully develop.

Overnight temperatures included lows that were just slightly below freezing to well below, according to Environment Canada data. The national weather service reported a low of minus 6 Celsius (21.2 Fahrenheit) at Edmonton, with the temperature in the provincial capital hovering between minus 4 and minus 6 Celsius during a five-hour period.

Significant lows were also recorded at Lloydminster (minus 5.3 Celsius), Peace River (minus 3.1 Celsius), Red Deer (minus 4 Celsius) and points in between.

Parts of southern Alberta escaped the frost.

Alberta also received heavy snow on Wednesday, which poses a risk to quality for both standing and swathed crops.

As of Sept. 2, Alberta farmers had cut or harvested 39 percent of all crops. Crops that were still standing are the most vulnerable to frost damage.

In some areas, farmers had already cut much of their crops, said Charlie Pearson, crops market analyst for the Alberta government.

"We could lose a quality grade or two, but (the frost) is probably not a disaster at this point," he said.

The market took the unfavorable weather in stride, with both ICE Canada canola futures and Minneapolis spring wheat futures lower on Thursday morning.

Canada is expected to harvest its third-largest canola crop on record and second-largest spring wheat crop in 15 years, according to Statistics Canada. Alberta produces nearly 40 percent of that output.

Factors such as the duration of cold weather, how far below freezing temperatures reach and the stage of crop development determine the extent of frost damage. Temperatures lower than minus 2 Celsius that last for several hours can kill crops.

"Definitely, it is a downgrade (to quality)," said Errol Anderson, president of Pro Market Communications in Calgary. "We're going to have a lot of feed wheat."

The neighboring provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba mostly avoided the deep freeze. But the cold is forecast to move west into Friday morning.

Environment Canada is forecasting overnight lows of minus 1 to minus 3 Celsius across much of Saskatchewan and western Manitoba. Canola and cereal crops have developed especially slowly in eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba.

Canada is the world's sixth-largest wheat producer and biggest grower of canola, a seed that is crushed for its oil and meal.

Editing by Nick Zieminski and Jeffrey Benkoe

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