June 3, 2011 / 6:02 PM / in 6 years

Drier spell not enough to plant in wet Western Canada

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Drier weather is in store for the boggiest areas of the Canadian Prairies, but it won’t likely last long enough to let frustrated farmers sow crops, an agricultural meteorologist said on Friday.

Planting of all crops was about one-third planted as of Monday in southeast Saskatchewan at a time when farmers are usually finishing up.

In southwest Manitoba, which was doused with rain and hail on Thursday, overall crop seeding is only 30 to 40 percent complete as of Friday in most areas, according to the Canadian Wheat Board.

“The problem over there is they have standing water still and flooding and they can’t take a few days of dry weather and turn it around into successful planting,” said Drew Lerner, president of Kansas City, Missouri-based World Weather Inc.

Those areas need seven to 10 days of hot, dry weather and that’s not in the forecast, he said.

Canada is the world’s top exporter of spring wheat, durum, canola and oats, most of which grows on the Prairies.

Weather will be drier in the wettest areas through Monday, with only light scattered showers, but it’s unlikely to allow farmers to plant the rest of their fields this season, Lerner said.

Hail on Thursday did little damage as most crops in the wettest areas have not emerged through the soil, said Stuart McMillan, crop and weather analyst for the Canadian Wheat Board. But heavy rains fell where there is already far too much moisture.

“Unless we saw some tremendously favorable weather, I really don’t see how they’re going to pull (planting) out,” McMillan said. “Many farmers feel it’s over.”

Insurance deadlines for seeding crops fall between June 10 and 20 depending on the crop and region.

Saskatchewan recently extended its deadlines and that might encourage some farmers to keep sowing longer, McMillan said.

Farmers in southeast Saskatchewan grow mostly durum and spring wheat, legume crops and some canola. In southwest Manitoba, wheat and canola are popular.


At the other extreme, fields in northern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan are too dry, with some areas reporting no rain for weeks, Lerner said.

Farmers have planted most of those areas, but the topsoil needs rain to germinate crops, he said.

The good news is that rain reached some of those regions on Friday, McMillan said, with Biggar, Saskatchewan recording 26 mm (1 inch) in a 24-hour period.

The next heavy rainstorm looks to hit mid-week in southern Alberta, Lerner said. The rain will move into southern Saskatchewan but likely lose intensity before it reaches the southeast, he said.

Editing by Marguerita Choy

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