Wet weather delays seeding, but could produce strong year for Manitoba farms

·3 min read

Just months after dealing with record low water levels and unprecedented drought, farmers in southern Manitoba are now being forced to deal with more possible hardships, but now it is because there is too much water on the ground.

With spring comes seeding season for many southern Manitoba farmers, and for Ryan Pritchard, who runs a farm just outside of the town of Carman where he grows wheat, canola, soybeans and corn, the record amount of rain and snow that fell last month has his seeding schedule backed up.

“As of right now, I would say I am behind one-and-half to two weeks at least,” Pritchard said. “And the delay has been from a combination of lingering cold weather, late snowfalls, and now rain.”

Those delays come after three straight Colorado lows hit southern Manitoba on three consecutive weekends last month, leaving some regions in the south to deal with four to six times the normal amount of precipitation they would get in a typical April.

According to Pritchard, the next few weeks will be “crucial,” but he added if the weather does cooperate it could turn into a good growing season because of all the moisture in the ground.

“I am on the fence on how I feel about the delay at this time,” he said. “If the weather cooperates I’m OK with the delay, as nothing grows in dry dirt, so it might be later than some like, but there will also be moisture to get crops growing.

“The overland flooding in my area has decreased and my land is drying out, but it will take a couple weeks of good weather before they are dry enough to work.

“The big question is when are the fields going to dry?”

And Pritchard is no stranger to weather events causing issues on the farm, as last year he said he struggled at times to even grow some of his crops, because of record-low precipitation that plagued much of southern Manitoba last summer.

Drought conditions caused problems and disruptions for Manitoba producers during last year’s growing season, with record-low precipitation levels and the driest July on record, with just 8.5 millimetres of rain that month, while the 30-year average for the month is 75.8 millimetres.

That left many growers, including Pritchard, to deal with withering crops and others with an inability to feed and maintain their livestock last growing season.

“Last year was a tough year for everything,” he said. “From plants, to livestock, to us farmers, it put stress on everything.”

Korey Peters, who farms on a family farm in the community of Randolph, south of Winnipeg, said he has also been forced to delay his seeding this spring, but said all the extra moisture might end up working in his favour and in the favour of other farmers, depending on the weather in the next few weeks.

“We’re delayed, as we have started seeding in late April or early May the last 12 years in a row, so we’ve had a good run,” Peters said. “But our fields are wet from rain the last three weekends which is delaying us now.

“The wet can suck, it’s stressful because of the waiting, but I have to admit some of our best years have come from when it gets wet like this.”

— 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.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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