Wet weather posing challenges for Manitoba farmers; even more rain expected

BRANDON, Man. –

The spring of 2022 is on track to be one of the wettest recorded in Manitoba history.

Stats from Environment Canada show that between March 1st and up to and including May 29th, 246.9 millimetres of precipitation was recorded at its Winnipeg climate station. An additional 20 to 30 mm is expected throughout the rest of today and heading into Tuesday morning.

The record for the wettest recorded spring in Manitoba is 325.4 mm, set in 1896.

“We are expecting thunderstorms tonight,” says Natalie Hasell, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada. “We know that even non-severe thunderstorms can drop a lot of precipitation, so that 20-30 we’re expecting today might actually end up being a higher amount, if the thunderstorm goes over our observation station.”

The constant wet weather has led to many farmers throughout the province having to put off crucial seeding for sizeable portions of their land.

“Fifty per cent of our land was covered in water,” says Will Bergmann, whose Bergmann Bros. farm operates along the Red River, where flooding has been an issue. “100 per cent of the land had some kind of effect from the flood, ditches filling up, that kind of thing. We are 20 per cent seeded, when normally we would have been well done by now.”

At this time of year, further delays can cause some farmers to change their seeding plans for the rest of the year. “Manitoba crop insurance has specific deadlines for planting certain crops if you want to be covered,” Bergmann explains. “This week’s wet again, which just means even further delays if we can’t get on the land to seed. So do we risk planting a crop that has a longer growing season? After a deadline, I don’t think we would.”

Further ramifications of these decisions, according to Bergman, could also affect the supply chain. “Seed suppliers having committed to buy certain acres for soybean seed now saying, ‘Hey actually, we’re not going to take any of it.’ That messes a lot of things up.”

Chad Wiens of Slow River Gardens, also along the Red River, was delayed in seeding by a month because water levels from flooding made his land inaccessible. “All of our fields up until about five days were under 2-4 feet of water starting late April,” he says. “Normally we like to get into the fields (in) late April or early May, and just this morning was the first time we were able to get in there.”

Though the flooding has gone down, the delays continue. “All soils in the Red River Valley are heavy clay-based, and when it gets wet, the soil gets mucky and it gets hard to walk through or drive a tractor through,” Wiens says. “But it can also become anaerobic, meaning that there’s no oxygen in the actual soil for the plants to be able to breathe.”

Wiens, remaining cautiously optimistic, says he spent the last six weeks working on new plans.

“A lot of early transplants that we would have wanted to put into the field in early May, we’re ‘potting up.’ We take them from one size tray in the greenhouse and pot them up into a larger sized tray. So we’re allowing a lot of the plants to continue growing and continue expanding their roots, we just keep on growing them in larger pots, which means the plant isn’t getting stressed out and it’s not getting hungry for nutrients. When we are finally able to plant into the field, a lot of our transplants will still be healthy, they’ll be a larger size. They might take a little bit longer to plant than others, but doing that will allow us to not actually be later on harvest for some of our crops.”

The province said Monday that parts of the province could see up to 75 mm of rain over the next two days.

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