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The Flood of 2014

Today’s Assiniboine Height: 1,173.2 feet

Brandon Sun - ONLINE EDITION

Crop-yield forecasts fall due to storm that brought crisis

Less than a week after the province was pounded with as much as 150 millimetres of rain in some portions of western Manitoba, the grim reality for some farmers is starting to set in.

Agriculture experts are revising yield forecasts downward, especially for canola, as more and more fields are under water.

With the premier declaring a state of emergency on Friday after volumes on the Assiniboine River started hitting levels reached in 2011, farm groups are starting to worry that crop failures might reach those levels as well.

About 3.5 million acres went unseeded in Manitoba in 2011. It is widely believed the number will be about one million acres this year.

"That's less than 2011 but it's only because of the time of the year the flood happened," said Doug Chorney, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers. "What is different this year is that more of the province is seeded but more of the province is adversely affected by the weather. I think there will be a big production hit by all crops."

The wet conditions arriving a little further into the growing season has meant a dramatic change in production expectations that, not so long ago, were fairly bullish.

Brenda Tjaden Lepp, co-founder and chief analyst of the agricultural marketing firm FarmLink Marketing Solutions, said it's the most sudden change she's ever seen.

"Only two weeks ago I was getting reports from advisers from across Western Canada about ideal soil-moisture conditions and the potential for bumper crops," she said. "Those were the kinds of phrases that were being thrown around. In my experience I don't think I have ever seen such a quick and dramatic change in the outlook."

Some crops are expected to be harder-hit than others. Wheat and cereal crops are planted earlier and can handle moisture better than oilseeds such as canola, the crop with the largest seeded acreage in Manitoba.

"The canola fields look awful," Chorney said. "I'm hearing that from people from Brandon to Beausejour. There's a few parts of the province where the crops are doing well, but not many. Most guys are really concerned."

Ed Rempel, a farmer near Starbuck and president of the 9,000-member Manitoba Canola Growers, said, "Some of our members are OK but many are up to their eyeballs in mud and water. It is an utter disaster."

He said some production might still be salvaged, but to reduce stress on plants with too much moisture, cool or windy weather is needed so the crops dry slowly.

"As soon as you introduce high temperatures, it puts added stress on the crop," he said. "That is the last thing canola needs and that looks exactly like what Mother Nature is going to deliver."

This week's provincial crop report made it clear the wet and cool weather conditions are impacting crops.

"Symptoms of excess-moisture stress, including yellowing and slowed crop development, are evident in many fields. Crop death has also been noted in the most severely impacted areas of the fields. It is anticipated that further crop damage will occur due to flooding and saturated soil conditions," the report said.

Tjaden Lepp said FarmLink will reassess production estimates in about a week when it will be more apparent how big an impact the water damage will have caused.

"But we have already taken a couple of bushels per acre out of our yield for canola," she said. "That takes a couple million tonnes out of the supply equation. That's a lot."

Chorney will be meeting with provincial Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn on Tuesday to discuss details on triggering the federal-provincial AgriRecovery disaster relief program.

 

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

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