May 9, 2012 / 3:42 PM / in 6 years

Frost seen for Western Canada, most crops should be okay

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Parts of Western Canada may see freezing temperatures later this week, but the damage to crops would be minimal with seeding still just getting underway, weather and crop specialists say.

Frost should reach southern Alberta and Saskatchewan on Thursday or Friday and stay below freezing overnight, said Andrew Owen, meteorologist at U.S.-based World Weather Inc.

Only those crops that have poked through the soil would be at risk, and there are few at that stage, Owen said.

Government forecaster Environment Canada is calling for temperatures to dip around or below the freezing mark in southern and central Saskatchewan, as well as southern Alberta by Friday.

In Saskatchewan, Canada’s biggest crop-growing province, seeding has slipped slightly behind the normal pace, leaving little risk of imminent frost damage, said Grant McLean, cropping management specialist for the Saskatchewan government.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said.

Winter wheat in some areas may be damaged, he said, but it makes up a small percentage of Canada’s total wheat crop.

Canada is the world’s biggest producer of canola, or rapeseed, and the top exporter of spring wheat, durum and oats.

Manitoba and eastern Canada aren’t likely to see freezing temperatures this week, Owen said.

Western Canadian farmers have the best spring planting conditions in at least three years, after two years of major flooding, but recent rains have slowed progress.

After heavy weekend rains, Saskatchewan farmers have made little planting progress from a week ago when overall seeding was 2 percent finished, or slightly behind the average pace, McLean said.

“I think everyone is waiting right now.”

The cold front will bring rain to some areas, watering some dry fields but also delaying farmers from planting for about a day, Owen said.

Southern Manitoba and northeastern Alberta look to receive five to 10 millimeters (0.2-0.4 inch) this week, before drier conditions return for the next week, he said.

“This coming week will definitely be really good for planting,” Owen said.

In southern Alberta, farmers had planted 40 percent of the total crop area as of May 3, mainly focusing on peas, wheat and barley.

Soil moisture is adequate overall in Manitoba, other than dry pockets in central and eastern regions, and excessively wet fields in the southwest.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by David Gregorio

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