TIPPING POINT: Farmers watching fields ‘burn away’ as drought conditions push crops to the brink

·4 min read

Korey Peters has been watching the skies and praying for rain all summer, but as each day passes, and rains don’t come, he worries more and more that this whole growing season could turn out to be a disaster for him and many other Manitoba farmers.

“You’re looking at the fields and at your only source of income, and you’re literally watching it just burn away in the sun,” Peters, a Randolph-based farmer said on Monday morning, while surveying the fields at his farm, which sits about 50 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.

Peters grows a number of crops at his farm every year including wheat, canola, corn, soybeans, and sunflower, but a season of high temperatures and very low precipitation has him and many farmers in Manitoba starting to wonder if their growing season can even be salvaged this year.

Peters said he doesn’t believe he has it as bad as some farmers closer to Winnipeg and in the Interlake, where he said he has heard some fields are already a “write off,” but he said his fields are getting closer to what he said could be a dire situation.

“We are at that point right now that it is getting dire for sure,” Peters said. “For us, there is still a small possibility of salvaging a decent crop, but that is only going to happen if we get rain now, like right now.

“It’s at a breaking point this week for sure.”

And a look at this week’s forecast on Monday didn’t have Peters feeling any more optimistic, as high temperatures and precipitation-free days are forecast right through until early next week.

Peters said extreme heat has also wreaked havoc on a number of his crops, along with the lack of rain.

“This kind of heat can be very detrimental,” he said. “And you really start to see it in the crops now, the canola is just burning off, and the wheat is starting to burn off on the tops. The soybean leaves are actually turning upside down and trying to hide from the sun.

“You just see signs of stressing all over, because these crops just go into survival mode.”

Peters said he has also heard from producers near Ste. Agathe who are already telling him they won’t be salvaging much of their crops this year.

“Near Ste. Adolphe, you can walk through a canola field and there is basically nothing, so there are some fields that are already toast, and others like ours that are showing real signs of stress now.”

He added sporadic rain won’t help at this point, as a few steady rains would be the only thing that would allow him and others to salvages their crops.

Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) is an organization that advocates for Manitoba-based farmers and producers.

KAP president Bill Campbell said that as the weeks pass he worries there just won’t be enough rain for a lot of farmers to be able to salvage their season.

“It’s significant, and it’s getting worse every day,” Campbell said. “The reality of the situation is that it just continually gets worse, so with no rain soon, there will be no correcting the situation we are in.

“I would suggest that we are at the tipping point this week. If we get the temperatures that are forecast and no rain, which looks like a very good chance, reality will set in this week, and I believe some tough decisions will have to be made.”

On Monday NDP Agriculture Critic Diljeet Brar called on the Pallister government to show more urgency over the current drought situation and to throw more support behind Manitoba producers in whatever ways they now can.

“I’ve been hearing from so many farmers in Manitoba recently about the situation they are in right now, they are facing drought, they have no water, and cattle farmers are struggling to maintain their cattle,” Brar said during a Monday afternoon press conference. “Many are thinking of selling their cattle, and being forced to make tough decisions.”

“Producers that have 800 acres of land are telling me that have just 80 acres of hay this year, and yield expectation for all crops is very low.”

In an email sent to the Winnipeg Sun, the province said they are closely monitoring the ongoing drought situation.

“Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development is closely monitoring conditions across the province. We’re currently in discussions with impacted stakeholder groups and working with them on a plan of how the province may be of additional assistance,” a provincial spokesperson said.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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