BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
A farmer travels along a rural road with his tractor on a wet Monday morning west of the city.
When it rains, crops feel the growing pains. Heavy wind and rain pounded southern Manitoba this past weekend, leaving farmers to watch their newly seeded fields fill up.
"I can see ponds throughout the field," said Henry Snitynsky, owner of HWS Farms Ltd. in Russell. "It’s not soft rain either, it’s heavy and there are wet potholes now."
More than 100 millimetres of rain fell on farmlands north of the Russell area. Snitynsky’s farm received 102 mm to 127 mm across his 26-square-kilometre farm over the weekend alone. Snitynsky has already completed seeding, but parts of his land are still recovering from last year’s flood.
"(Last year), a third of our acres we couldn’t crop, so we summer fallowed," Snitynsky said. Fallowing leaves soil without stubble, making low areas more vulnerable to moisture saturation. The farmer said some parts are "brimming full" from Sunday, and the standing water may affect his harvest.
"Some of these areas I’m not expecting a whole lot," he said.
Recent cool weather is also causing delays in crop maturity. Temperatures in the area have been sitting around 7 C or 8 C, but last Friday dipped as low as 0 C — with an extra surprise.
"Big fluffy flakes of snow — three inches deep," Snitynsky said. "It was almost funny seeing the snow sliding off the roof."
Precipitation isn’t the only problem — Joyce Keller, who runs an organic farm with her husband outside Russell, said the weekend’s whipping winds were "wild" and she saw parts of a nearby roof get blown off.
"I was watching the trees sway and wondering if they would stay," she said.
Thunderstorms chased her husband off the field early last week, leaving 30 of their 162 hectares unseeded. The organic farmers typically wait longer to start the process, since they can’t spray for weeds, and are now waiting alongside other farmers for fields to dry.
"We won’t be driving on the field for a while," Keller said, adding it’s "too soon to tell" if the excess moisture will have long-term effects for the harvest.
Farmers can’t do much in this situation, except let Mother Nature finish her business.
"We’ve experienced excess moisture over the last couple of years, it’s something we’ve become accustomed to," said Elmer Kaskiw, farm production adviser for Shoal Lake. "It’s just a matter of waiting — but I don’t expect crop damage or injury."
Crops are vulnerable at this time, as the germination process has only just started and shallow rooting problems may occur. Kaskiw said most areas can absorb the weekend rain, but he is concerned about precipitation in the coming days.
"Any rain we get now will compound and some of the crops could become oxygen deprived," Kaskiw said. "We’re not there yet, but we’re close."
After rain on Monday, the forecast calls for highs of 18 C to 25 C, with sun and partial clouds to carry on the rest of the week.
"If I had a wishlist, on it would be drier, warmer weather for the next two weeks," Kaskiw said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 29, 2012