Snow to stall harvests for western Prairies, Montana

File photo of a snow-topped field in Alberta. (Don White/iStock/Getty Images)

Chicago | Reuters — A weekend storm is poised to bring more than a foot (30.5 cm) of snow to parts of Montana and the Canadian Prairies, putting portions of the region’s spring wheat and canola crops at risk, a meteorologist said.

Excessively wet conditions in the region this month have already slowed fieldwork and hurt spring wheat quality on both sides of the border.

Snow is expected to fall from Saturday night through Monday, dumping 10 to 30 cm broadly across southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. A few areas close to the U.S. border are likely to receive 18 inches through Monday, said Nick Vita, a meteorologist with the Commodity Weather Group.

“We’re thinking about 10 to 15 per cent of the Canadian spring wheat and canola is at risk to see five to 10 per cent losses due to lodging from the snow,” said Vita.

Lodging occurs when plants get knocked over, making them difficult to harvest.

Montana’s spring wheat harvest was 80 per cent complete by Sunday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, limiting the amount of crops still vulnerable to the weather there.

The harvest is less advanced in Canada. Farmers had gathered 31 per cent of Saskatchewan’s spring wheat and 17 per cent of its canola as of Monday, the province said in a weekly report. Harvest progress for all crops in the province totaled 39 per cent, well behind the five-year average pace of 62 per cent.

“We are expecting drier weather to return no later than the middle of next week,” Vita said. “So the snow should melt … But harvest will be slow to recover,” he said.

— Julie Ingwersen is a commodities correspondent for Reuters in Chicago.

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