Rainy conditions compromise harvest and damage crops


After enduring a drought for most of the summer, fall has rolled in, accompanied by the sounds of thunder and cracks of lightning – and repetitive rains.

It’s been hard on farmers, both in getting onto the field with machinery, and in struggling to save their remaining crops from further moisture damage.

“The rain was intense and lasting late last week, and hopefully most of the cereals have been harvested,” said Rejean Picard, farm production extension specialist for cereals with Manitoba Agriculture. “But not all of them, unfortunately. So not complete crop losses there, but there are some.”

Picard said that canola, corn, and soybeans are still in the fields, and some of them will endure the wet more than others.

“The oilseeds tend to hold up somewhat better in rainy conditions, and standing crops like soybeans will fare better, along with corn, but mildew can develop when the wet conditions last too long,” he said. “Drier weather would definitely be welcome now to finish the harvest. The last several years have been much easier at harvest than this one.”

The recurrent rains also compromised plans for the Killarney Growing Project’s celebratory harvest of their Canadian Foodgrains Bank field, sown this spring with Brandon wheat, just south of Lena. 

The date for their big event had to be re-scheduled a number of times, thwarted by showers. 

And when they finally were able to move ahead, on Tuesday, September 17, snatching the opportunity between rains, and with just hours of notice, the row of 16 volunteer combine drivers who brought in the crop (combined in just one hour and 20 minutes) were soon hustling to get back on the road as fast as they could, in order to get home to their own fields.

“It has been challenging,” said Betty Turner, secretary of the Killarney Growing Project. “We pray that everyone will get their crops off safely, and that the weather will be good and allow them to harvest.”

The event included the Lunch in the Field, set up on the lawn next to Troy and Lori Marten’s 140-acre field, which was rented this year for the CFGB wheat crop. It drew around 200 diners to hear about the world charity project, and to enjoy locally produced cuisine.

There was also a chance to take a shot of wetting someone in the Dunk Tank. For $5, competitors could chuck a ball at a red circle, which then released a tank of water onto the poor soul sitting below it on a toilet.

Before the combining event, it was time to eat, with food prepared by Willow Creek Hutterite Colony, who did the wonderful dinner, Holmfield Colony, who rolled out the delicious desserts, and Mayfair Colony, who supervised traffic and parking – vigilant in their high-vis jackets on the verge of Highway 18. 

Mayfair Colony also brought along a couple of big boxes of their supreme tomatoes, inviting the diners to take home a few each in their pockets.

“It takes all of us, together, to make a difference,” said Dan Penner, chair of the committee, who opened the event. “The Canadian Foodgrains Bank does a lot to back people who are less fortunate.”

Turner said that at the time of harvest they had ‘sold’ 151 acres of the field. And another nine were purchased post-harvest, she added. Each $250 that was donated covered input costs for that acre, and because they ‘oversold’ the 140-acre-field, that meant extra cash for the CFGB fundraising, which can be matched up to 4:1 by the federal government.

“We are so thankful for such wonderful community support,” said Turner. “Our yield was 84 bushels to the acre, or 320.2 metric tonnes, or 11,764 bushels of spring wheat. HyLife is purchasing the wheat, and revenue from that sale will be sent directly to the CFGB. Daniel Kroeker won the silent auction bid of a photo of the harvest with his $300 bid.”

Vic Martens, treasurer for the Killarney Growing Project committee, said this week that HyLife had since made out the cheque for the crop, which came to a total of $65,878.56.

 “The crop was delivered to the HyLife feed mill, here in Killarney,” he said. “We had a really good yield for the field, considering the season. The quality was a little down, however, and it was slightly discounted for moisture.”

In general, harvest has been late this year throughout the region, and difficult, said Picard.

“Progress has been delayed and sporadic, due to the recent rainy conditions,” he said last week. “Harvest was only possible when conditions were dry enough to operate machinery. Early cereal grains harvested were of good quality, but the later grain harvested has suffered degrading, due to bleaching, and sometimes sprouting when in the swath. The longer the grain stays in the field, the more there is bleaching, and downgrading.”

Soybeans were mostly mature, he added, and were now ripening standing, and dropping their leaves.

“Corn is mostly done seed filling, and it will take time to dry down for harvest,” said Picard. “I don’t think a frost would hurt any crops at this stage, as even the late maturing ones, like soybeans and corn, have matured sufficiently.”

But even if crops do mature, and dry out somewhat, sodden ground conditions could still stymie the harvest.

“One issue developing with these recent rains is that soils are getting saturated with water, which will make field operations more challenging by taking longer to dry, and to further delay harvest,” said Picard.

GET IT WHILE YOU CAN – Seizing an opportunity on Tuesday afternoon, producers were rapidly combining swaths of canola on fields west of Chatham Seeds on Fairdale Road, and loading it up for transport. Harvest this fall has been very challenging; especially after heavy and intensive rain last weekend that fell for hours and saturated the ground. 


SIXTEEN COMBINES HIT THE SWATHS – The Killarney Growing Project volunteers were finally able to organize their harvest day – between rains – on Tuesday, September 17, and 16 combines and their drivers came out to bring in the wheat for the world. If you have a field for them to rent for next year’s crop (or would like to donate to the CFGB project), contact Betty Turner at 1-204-523-0217.


LOADING UP AT LUNCH – The delicious Lunch in the Field drew around 200 diners during the local Canadian Foodgrains Bank harvest event. Then the combines roared to life, and 320.2 metric tons of wheat was harvested. Profit from the sale of the Killarney Growing Project crop will go to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank charity. 

WHEAT FOR THE WORLD – Sixteen huge combines swept around the 140-acre Killarney Growing Project field south of Lena on Tuesday, in a massive, spectacular ballet, as they augured their wheat into waiting grain carts. There was also time for a little pre-harvest fun (below) with the dunk tank.