July 5, 2011 / 4:28 PM / 6 years ago

Western Canada crops bask in warm, humid weather

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Warm, humid weather with occasional rain showers are creating greenhouse conditions for Canada's grains and canola, giving late-developing crops a much-needed chance to catch up.

Flooding in the southern Prairies, which has dragged out to nearly three months in southeastern Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba, left an estimated 6 million to 8 million acres unplanted this year, while earlier cool, wet conditions delayed plant growth by two to three weeks.

"In general, the crops are looking quite good where they got seeded," said Grant McLean, cropping management specialist for the Saskatchewan government. "If it doesn't get too hot, it's pretty ideal growing conditions."

Most of the Prairies received less than 40 percent of normal precipitation for the week ended July 3, according to Agriculture Canada's Drought Watch site (PDF of map: r.reuters.com/xug52s)

In a normal year that might be a concern, but the Prairies are well-watered after collecting much more rain than normal in nearly all areas during the past 60 days.

Canada is the biggest shipper of spring wheat and durum, but there are concerns about small plantings and poor quality potential for both due to flooding.

Late development could leave crops vulnerable to frost damage in early September that would downgrade quality.

In contrast to the soggy southern Prairies, central and northern growing areas of Saskatchewan may see above-average yields for all crops, McLean said.

The risk of current conditions is if temperatures get too hot, canola that has just started to flower could suffer yield loss, while thunderstorms have already scattered large hail in some parts of Saskatchewan.

Alberta got heavy rain late last month in its dry northern fields, followed up by favorable dry weather, said James Wright, risk analyst for Alberta Financial Services Corp, the government provider of crop insurance.

"We're in Eden here now," Wright said.

Yields of cereal grains and canola look to be average to slightly above average this year, he said.

Manitoba's agriculture department said on Monday that warm, humid weather was accelerating crop growth in most of the province.

Environment Canada is forecasting hot weather this week, reaching 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) at times, in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and parts of Alberta. Rain is expected late in the week.

"I don't see anything that's very threatening at the moment," said Drew Lerner, senior agricultural meteorologist at World Weather Inc in Kansas City. "Temperatures look pretty seasonably warm, but not hot."

Temperatures look to cool after a late-week storm passes across the Prairies.

Western Alberta may get most of this week's rain and become too wet, Lerner said.

Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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