Forecast rain to cause few problems for Peace farmers

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CNS Canada — As rain threatens to disrupt harvest in parts of the Prairies this week and next, the Peace region of northwestern Alberta is attracting added attention.

While rains are forecast to be fairly general across eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba over the next week or so, they are expected to cause minimal damage and harvest delays there.

In the Peace, crop development is already behind thanks to a wet spring and there were concerns about what untimely precipitation might mean for farmers.

Micheal Seabrook, location manager for Crop Production Services at Fairview, Grimshaw and Hines Creek, Alta., was quick to dispel those worries.

The harvest, he said, is very well advanced in areas he covers, which includes farmland from just north of the Peace River to La Crete, about 360 km north of Fairview.

“My La Crete customers and a lot through to the Manning and Deadwood area are well advanced at the harvest. I would say for the most part from 70 to 80 per cent along,” he said.

Though rain is in the forecast, conditions now are dry due to persistent winds, and small amounts of rain are likely to have little effect, he said.

“We’ve had some pretty wicked winds that have kept things dry and kept things moving,” he said.

“You know how farmers are. We’ll wait and see what next week brings. The forecast will change 10 times between now and then,” he said.

More of a concern, he added, is when the first serious frost hits, with predictions for frost tonight and tomorrow night. He said it could affect some later-seeded canola, which is still fairly green.

However, he said, overall, farmers are optimistic.

While harvest might be behind a bit, it is a major improvement from a year ago. Snow struck the region on the third week of September last year and kept farmers out of fields until November.

“What’s rolling into the bins is good quality and clean,” he said.

“Right now, our peas are still standing. We’ve had good weather to get them off. They’re nice clean samples and coming off decent.”

Farmers in the Fairview and Grimshaw areas are 70 to 80 per cent done combining peas, with Hines Creek slightly behind that pace.

Most farmers are getting into canola, with some being combined around Fairview and about 80 per cent lying in swaths in the Fairview-Grimshaw region.

“Guys are pretty optimistic right now.”

Most farmers haven’t started wheat harvest yet, though it developed more quickly than many people thought it would due to a warm, dry August. Much of the wheat was seeded late and many farmers were expecting to take it off in October, but it now appears it could be combined sooner than that.

“With what’s going and the crop that’s there, we’ve got an average to above-average crop for the most part. The bushels are there,” Seabrook said.

Bruce Burnett, director of markets and weather analysis for Glacier FarmMedia, said general rain for this week and next should not concern many growers in areas outside of the northern grain belt.

Following scattered showers, which are predicted for the middle of this week and next, he said more harvest-friendly weather should return.

“The longer-term forecast looks fairly good. We’re going to return on the Prairies to a warmer, drier flow,” he said.

The rain comes as a mixed blessing to farmers, he said, depending on where they live. While many southern farmers could use the rain to replenish dry soils, farmers in central and northern areas need to finish their harvests first.

Soybeans, a key crop still in the ground in southern areas, should be able to weather the expected precipitation, Burnett said. The soybean harvest is still a week to 10 days away in most areas, he added.

— Terry Fries writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow CNS Canada at @CNSCanada on Twitter.

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