'I've never seen this': Wet weather leaves some soybeans unharvested

Rain and snow stopped many farmers from harvesting the beans on time this year.

About 810 hectares on P.E.I. were not harvested, which could mean up to $80K in losses

The soybeans must be below a certain moisture level, so farmers often gamble and leave them in the field to dry naturally. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

There are about 10 centimetres of soybean stems poking through Norman Cairns field in Stanchel, P.E.I., and he's not happy about it.

Soy farmers on the Island lost more than their fair share of crop and money this year after rain and snow kept them from harvesting the beans in time.

Cairns owns about 66 hectares but only harvested six this year because of the weather.

"I've never seen this. We've never left crop in the field before," he said.

Wet beans swell up

When it rains too much, soybeans take on moisture and swell up into a football shape, said Neil Campbell, manager of the P.E.I. Grain Elevators Corporation.

Neil Campbell has been hearing from farmers across the Island who have not been able to harvest their soybeans. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Once they reach that point, they are too wet to go through the dryer and lose quality grades, so farmers leave them in the field to dry naturally.

The beans can be harvested at moisture levels below 20 per cent, but last week they were around 27 per cent, he said.

It also costs money to dry the beans manually, so farmers often risk a later harvest, he said.

This year the rain never let up for long enough, and now the beans are frozen in the snow.

"We seem to have an old-fashioned winter. We got snow this year, earlier than normal," he said. "The guys were waiting for a small window to get into the fields and that was hard to find."

Up to $80K in losses

The majority of soybean fields in P.E.I. are located in the eastern part of the Island, with some in the middle and about 40 hectares in the west.

This field of soybeans in Stanchel, P.E.I., still has plants visible, but two other nearby fields are totally buried in snow. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Campbell said about 810 hectares on the Island were not harvested, which could mean up to $80,000 in losses. There will also be no exports to Quebec this winter, he said.

There is a silver lining, though: If it starts to rain and unfreezes the beans, the farmers could still salvage some of the crop.

"If we come in with a rain now and bared off the soil, and then it froze, they could go in and cut them and salvage them like they did three years ago," he said. "They waited, they cut over the Christmas break and into New Year's actually."

Changing the crop

Campbell added producers may consider planting a different kind of soybean that they can cut earlier.

Norman Cairns has only been able to harvest six of about 67 acres of soybeans at his farm in Stanchel, P.E.I. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Farmers can also get some of their money back if they have crop insurance, he said.

With files from Nancy Russell