Another Colorado casualty is frustrating Manitoba farmers who can’t plant their fields

There are two words Manitoba crop growers never want to hear again.

Another Colorado low is expected to crash into southern parts of the province on Monday and Tuesday, bringing strong winds to western Manitoba and another avalanche of precipitation across south-central and southeastern parts of the province.

Growers are increasingly upset with Mother Nature, which prevents them from growing all of their crops.

“Those are two scary words for farmers at this particular time: precipitation continues, and it’s frustrating that we can’t do what we want to do or what we need to do,” Bill Campbell, president. of Keystone Agriculture Producers, he said Monday from his farm in Minto, about 200 km southwest of Winnipeg.

With an estimated 30-50mm of rain expected to fall in parts of southern Manitoba over the next two days, Campbell reckons there will likely be a significant amount of unsown fields in the province this season.

“Growers are doing everything they can, but even when they are going out into the field, they are leaving areas, probably 5 to 20 percent of their fields, they have to go,” he said.

“We have limited capacity to plant, to get our seeders out into the field,” he added. “There has been some activity in terms of trying to dry out the fields and identify the wet places where we can’t travel.”

Bill Campbell says it’s been frustrating for growers, who haven’t been able to string together three or four consecutive days to plant their crops. (Submitted by Bill Campbell)

Campbell adds that there has been some planting over the past week as some fields have started to dry out, including fields in some parts of the province with higher topography, but a setback is looming with another low rainfall imminent in Colorado.

We’re just losing day after day, which turns into week after week, and we can’t travel in our fields.– Bill Campbell, President, Keystone Farm Producers

He planned to plant peas and soybeans this season, but due to wet conditions, Campbell says he’s turning to wheat, barley, oats and canola.

Campbell doesn’t expect most growers to be able to plant again until Wednesday or Thursday, and when they do, he expects it to be a 24/7 operation.

“We’re just losing day after day, which turns into week after week, and we can’t travel in our fields,” he said. “I think soil temperatures are improving, but it’s certainly not warm soil, and we’re getting closer to that window for the crop insurance deadline.”

The crop insurance deadline for most crops is June 15, with a five-day extension available with reduced coverage. The deadline for long-sown crops is Wednesday.

Wettest spring in over 125 years

Four other Colorado lows have hit southern Manitoba since early April, with three of them bringing significant precipitation.

Natalie Hasell, Environment and Climate Change Canada alert preparedness meteorologist, says southern Manitoba has been on the receiving end of one of the wettest weather springs on record. The meteorological spring began on March 1 and ends on Tuesday night.

“As we look back at the weather that we’ve seen, it’s been especially active during April and May, so a lot of precipitation has fallen during this time period,” he said.

Hasell says that Winnipeg received 14.8mm of precipitation in March, 118.2mm in April and 113.9mm so far in May. The 246.9mm total ranks as the second-highest rainfall the city has ever seen, behind just 325.4mm in 1896.

And she says the numbers recorded may not be entirely accurate.

With thunderstorms also in the forecast, there is a chance of heavy downpours in localized areas of southern Manitoba, which would only add to the problems growers are experiencing.

June is usually the wettest month in Winnipeg and southern Manitoba. The provincial capital has averaged about 90 mm of precipitation in the last 30 years. July and August also tend to be quite wet, averaging between 79.5mm and 77mm, according to Hasell.

“Even if we have an average month to come, we’re already in trouble here,” he said. “This will only extend the flood season and make things very difficult for a lot of people.”

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