Another Colorado low is frustrating Manitoba farmers who can't seed their fields

Producers are growing increasingly ticked off with Mother Nature, which is keeping them from seeding all of their crops. Another Colorado low is only expected to add to that frustration.

Wettest spring in southern Manitoba in more than a century; 'very trying' season, crop farmer says

Bill Campbell's farm, located about 50 kilometres south of Brandon, in 2019. Once again, a rainy spring has delayed seeding for Campbell and countless producers in southern Manitoba. (Bill Campbell)

There are two words Manitoba crop producers do not want to hear again. 

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

Producers are growing increasingly ticked off with Mother Nature, which is keeping them from seeding all of their crops.

"Those are two words of fear for farmers at this particular point in time is that continual precipitation, and it just is frustrating that we can't go about doing what we want to do or what we need to do," Bill Campbell, president of Keystone Agriculture Producers, said Monday from his farm in Minto, about 200 km southwest of Winnipeg. 

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

"Producers are trying their best but even when they are getting out in the field, they are leaving areas — probably 5-20 per cent of their fields — they are having to leave," he said.

"We have limited ability to seed, to get our seeders out onto the field," he added. "There's been some activity with regards to trying to dry out the fields and identify the wet spots where we are unable to travel."

Bill Campbell says it's been frustrating for producers, who have been unable to string together three to four consecutive days to seed their crops. (Submitted by Bill Campbell)

Campbell adds that there has been some seeding 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 looms with the impending precipitation from yet another Colorado low.

We are just losing day after after day, which turns into week after week, and we're unable to travel on our fields.- Bill Campbell, president, Keystone Agricultural Producers

He planned to plant peas and soybeans this season, but due to the wet conditions, Campbell says he's opting to go with wheat, barley, oats and canola.

Campbell doesn't expect most producers will be able to get back to seeding until Wednesday or Thursday, and when they do he expects it will be a 24/7 operation.

"We are just losing day after after day, which turns into week after week, and we're unable to travel on our fields," he said. "I think that the soil temp is improving but it's certainly not a warm soil, and we're getting close 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-season crops is Wednesday.

Colin Penner, who farms near Elm Creek, said he'd normally be done seeding his fields by this time of the year. (CBC)

Elm Creek-area crop farmer Colin Penner described the situation this year as "very trying." 

His main battle to seed his fields has been fighting with the mud caused by excessive moisture, with his machinery getting stuck in the muck. In a normal year, he'd be done seeding by now — not looking at a potential late fall harvest. 

"We're taking it one day at a time," Penner said. 

Charles Fossay, president of Manitoba Canola Growers, concurred with Penner, saying it was a season of "stop and go farming." 

He said he's hopeful required seeding can be done in the next three weeks to salvage the growing season. 

"I'm on the optimistic side," Fossay said. "I'm optimistic we'll get the crops in and have something to sell this fall and pay the bills." 

Wettest spring in more than 125 years

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

Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, says southern Manitoba has been on the receiving end of one of the wettest meteorological springs on record. Meteorological spring started March 1 and ends Tuesday night.

"As we look back at the weather that we've seen, it's been especially active through April and May, so a lot of precipitation has fallen during this time frame," she said.

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

And she says the numbers recorded might not even be completely accurate.

With thunderstorms also in the forecast, there's a possibility for heavy downpours in localized areas of southern Manitoba, which would only add to the woes producers are experiencing. 

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

"Even if we have an average month coming up, we're already in trouble here," she said. "This will just extend the flooding season and make things very difficult for a lot of people."

Rainy spring delays seeding for Manitoba farmers

3 months ago
Duration 1:50
Producers are growing increasingly ticked off with Mother Nature, which is keeping them from seeding all of their crops.


Nathan Liewicki is an online reporter at CBC Manitoba. He has worked at several newspapers, including the Brandon Sun, the Regina Leader-Post and the Edmonton Journal.

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson


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