June 1, 2011 / 4:37 PM / in 6 years

Rains stall Saskatchewan planting

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Farmers in waterlogged parts of eastern Saskatchewan are nearly out of time for fields to dry in time for planting, after steady rains in the past few days, provincial government officials said on Wednesday.

“Every second day for the past week, it seems like it’s been raining and raining,” said Daphne Cruise, regional crops specialist for Saskatchewan, which is Canada’s biggest provincial grower of wheat, oats and canola.

Some eastern and southern areas of Saskatchewan -- which usually produce spring wheat, canola and oats, have received 38 mm (1.5 inches) in the past few days, she said.

“They didn’t need anything that they got.”

Saskatchewan had too much rain last year that left a record high 6.9 million acres (2.8 million hectares) unplanted due to wetness. Soil remained saturated before winter, and snow and rain since then has left standing water in many fields.

The wettest areas are in southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba, said Bruce Burnett, director of weather and market analysis for the Canadian Wheat Board.

“There are some areas that quite frankly are so wet I don’t know if there’s reasonable hope of getting them planted this year,” he said.

Still, good planting progress in northern and western Saskatchewan and most of Alberta means western planting won’t likely be the disaster it was a year ago, he said.

Burnett expects farmers to leave about 4 million to 5 million acres unplanted this spring due to wetness, which is less than half of last year’s total.

Planting in southeastern Saskatchewan as of last week was less than one-quarter complete, compared with the five-year average of three-quarters finished.

Just over half of Saskatchewan crop planting overall was done as of last week.

Weather turned dry on Wednesday, but scattered showers are likely to return to southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba from Thursday through Saturday, said Environment Canada meteorologist Natalie Hasell.

Farmers got some breathing room on Tuesday when the Saskatchewan government extended planting deadlines for crop insurance. Deadlines are now June 15 and 20, depending on the crop and region.

Farmers are now looking at planting short-season crops such as oats if they can get onto their fields in time, said Grant McLean, Saskatchewan’s cropping management specialist.

Recent rains also soaked western Manitoba, with 47 mm (1.9 inches) hitting Brandon and 76 mm (3 inches) falling in McCreary. Spring wheat planting in southwestern areas was just 15 to 30 percent finished as of Monday.

In Alberta, the No. 2 wheat and canola grower, most areas dodged spring rainstorms and seeding is about 95 percent finished, said provincial government crop specialist Harry Brook.

Southern Alberta areas, which grow barley and wheat, are only about 80 percent done because of wetness, he said.

Editing by Marguerita Choy and Lisa Shumaker

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