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Published June 09, 2014, 09:47 AM

Canadian farmers make planting progress

Canadian farmers can plant a lot of acres when the weather cooperates — and in late May it finally did.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Canadian farmers can plant a lot of acres when the weather cooperates — and in late May it finally did.

Though rain returned in early June, a brief late-May respite from cool, wet conditions allowed many producers on the soggy Canadian prairies to make rapid planting progress. Though some farmers, particularly ones in Manitoba, are still behind, the outlook is better than a week earlier.

“We’re still a little behind overall, but we’ve caught up some,” says Blair Rutter, the Winnipeg, Manitoba-based executive director of the Western Canadian Grain Growers Association.

“There’s been some concern (about delayed planting). We’re not in too bad shape now, though,” he says.

Modern farm equipment and technology provide “greater capacity to get more grain in the ground in a narrow (planting) window,” he says.

Parts of the Canadian prairie have been in a wet cycle for five or six years, notes Levi Wood, a Regina, Saskatchewan, farmer.

Many producers in the wet areas have factored that into their business plans and bought bigger machinery, helping them plant more rapidly this spring, he says.

Even so, planting has been slow in Manitoba, where only two-thirds of crops were in the ground by June 2, according to Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, which tracks planting progress.

Planting has been particularly tardy in northwest Manitoba, where about half of crops were in the ground by late May. Some fields in the area probably won’t get planted this spring, even if the weather begins to cooperate, according to published reports.

In Alberta, planting has gone relatively well and farmers there generally are wrapping up.

In Saskatchewan, the biggest prairie producer, 78 percent of fields were planted by June 2. That’s ahead of the five-year average of 76 percent finished, a reflection of the recent wet springs that Wood refers to.

This year, “We had some pretty decent weather and we made pretty good progress (in late May),” Wood says.

His farm had one or two days of planting remaining when he talked with Agweek.

Rainfall had varied greatly, however, and planting is further behind in some parts of the province than others, according to Saskatchewan Agriculture’s weekly crop report, issued June 5.

Many producers in the province will need warm, dry weather before they can resume planting, the report says.

Crop insurance deadlines

Overall, some fields, and parts of other fields, are so wet that they probably won’t get planted, even if the weather cooperates during the week of June 9, says Bruce Burnett, weather and crop specialist with CWB Market Research Services. CWB formerly was known as the Canadian Wheat Board.

Crop insurance deadlines will affect planting decisions for some Canadian farmers.

Deadlines for planting corn and soybeans, which are becoming more common in parts of southern Canada, already have passed, Burnett says.

But upcoming deadlines for some other crops are approaching, he says.

In Canada, the federal and provincial governments, along with farmers, share in the cost of all-crop insurance. Typically, farmers pay about a third of the total cost, Wood says.

As is the case with federally subsidized crop insurance in the U.S., Canadian farmers must plant their crops by certain deadlines to qualify for full insurance coverage. The deadlines vary by crop and geographic locations known as “risk areas.”

Here’s an example, using numbers from the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp.’s website:

In much of northern Manitoba, the deadline for full coverage of canola is June 10, with a June 11 to 15 “extended seeding period” deadline for 20 percent reduced coverage. In much of southern Manitoba, the deadline for full coverage of canola is June 15, with a June 16 to 20 extended seeding period deadline for 20 percent reduced coverage.

In general, the planting season is five days to a week longer in southern Canada than in northern Canada. There also are pockets in parts of western Canada that are more susceptible to frost than parts of eastern Canada, Burnett says.