June 3, 2010 / 6:25 PM / 7 years ago

Rain could leave 1 million Canada acres unplanted

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Conditions for late spring planting are among the wettest ever on the Canadian Prairies, a key wheat- and canola-growing region that the Canadian Wheat Board said on Thursday might leave a large stretch of acres unplanted.

About 30 percent of soggy northeastern Saskatchewan, or more than 1 million acres designated for wheat, canola and barley, might go unplanted this year, said Wheat Board crop and weather analyst Stuart McMillan, as spring rains and a wet forecast leave farmers hard-pressed to plant before insurance deadlines.

"Some of those guys are certainly not going to be able to get crop in the ground," McMillan said in an interview with Reuters. If the Saskatchewan government offers compensation above current programs for acres that are too wet to seed, the number of unplanted acres could rise even further, he said.

Saskatchewan's government crop insurance agency on Thursday extended seeding deadlines to June 15 or 20, depending on the area and the crop.

"With the new deadlines and good weather, they might get the crop in on time and harvested, but there are a few 'mights' involved," McMillan said.

Planting in Saskatchewan, the country's top crop-producing province, is stuck well behind normal at 59 percent [ID:nN03247286].

Canadian farmers may have to replant 100,000 to 200,000 acres, McMillan said, mostly in Manitoba which had a once-in-50-years rainstorm last weekend.

"My greatest concern is those areas that will not be seeded whatsoever," he said.

Canada is the world's third largest grower of canola and rapeseed, and the No. 6 producer of wheat.

The entire Canadian Prairies, with the exception of the Rocky foothills and Peace region, has received above-normal precipitation this spring, with many areas getting more than twice as much rain as normal during the April-May planting period, according to Canada's agriculture department.

A large part of central Saskatchewan around North Battleford, Saskatoon and Rosetown received more than 120 mm (4.7 inches) of rain above average in April and May and much of the region set wetness records.

Saskatchewan farmers who are able to plant may abandon canola for shorter-season spring wheat and barley, McMillan said.

Despite the rain delays, Canadian crops won't necessarily be smaller at harvest than last year, McMillan said, since much of the seeded crops are in good condition and don't face drought as they did a year ago, which may lead to better yields.

Manitoba farmers had planted 90-95 percent of their crop before last weekend's heavy rain, leaving about 500,000 acres. Some may use aerial seeding to beat the June 20 insurance deadline, said Andy Nadler, agricultural meteorologist for the province.

"(500,000 acres) is nothing to panic about at this point," he said. "It's about normal."

Most Manitoba farmers are within 10 percent of finishing canola planting, said Derwyn Hammond, senior agronomy specialist in Manitoba with the Canola Council of Canada.

However, in northwest Manitoba, a key canola-growing region, farmers still need to plant about one-quarter of their canola acres, he said.

Reporting by Rod Nickel; Editing by John Picinich

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