Seed World

Canadian Deluge Could Cause Seed Supply Issues

Staff and volunteers help pile sandbags around the buildings at Manitoba's DL Seeds last weekend. Photo courtesy DL Seeds

Sandbags — and lots of volunteers to fill and sling them — are coming in handy for Manitoba’s seed community as Mother Nature dumped two Colorado lows on the region two weekends in a row.

“Unfortunately, the culverts did not clear in time and the field runoff just accumulated and backed up. Some years we’ll get some backup for sure, but this time, it backed up right into the yard. We’ve had at least six inches of water in the yard, which we’ve never had before ever,” says Kevin McCallum, general manager of DL Seeds in Manitoba, Canada.

“It was just a perfect storm where you’ve got a large amount of rainfall in a very short time and the culverts are not completely dug out and working properly.”

Southern Manitoba was hit with a double whammy of rain and snow over the weekend, with some parts of the province receiving well over 50 mm of precipitation. The weekend prior, a storm system brought as much as 80 mm of precipitation to some parts of the province.

The result was power outages, flooding and dangerous highway conditions across Manitoba.

Planting will be delayed in much of Manitoba.

“Last year, we already had our first trial in the ground right now. This will be a completely different year. That said, our agronomist in Saskatoon thinks that they’ll be out in the field later this week and our agronomist in Edmonton is thinking that they’ll be putting peas in the ground next week. It really depends where you are and what your moisture conditions are,” McCallum adds.

Todd Hyra’s brother farms in Grandview, Man., and by this time last year he was seeding already.

“They just got four more inches of snow, so they’re not doing anything for another week or 10 days. They can’t get anything close to going,” says Hyra, western business manager for SeCan.

Kevin McCallum of DL Seeds

“Conditions vary across Western Canada of course, but in Manitoba we need about three weeks of good dry conditions to get the crop in the ground, and then it can start raining again.”

It won’t be long before growers start looking at changing out earlier maturing varieties, which could create some challenges with supply, according to Pitura Seeds president Tom Greaves.

“We’re using this as an opportunity to make sure that we’re 100% organized and structured and ready, because it’s going to be a short, fast and furious season this year.”

Eric McLean of Manitoba’s J.S. Henry Seeds and Ben Ledi Farms says seed growers in Manitoba were a bit spoiled last year, and this year is a bit of a return to normal, in a way.

“It’s nice to be able to get excited about sowing in April, and it doesn’t always happen. Obviously, this is going to be one of those years. Even last year, we had a really good early start, with very little moisture and very little snowfall pack, and it melted off quickly. We were able to get equipment ready in March and we were starting to do field work in the earlier parts of April. That’s a rarity,” he said.

Eric McLean operates JS Henry & Son.

But it’s not just seed companies affected by the delay in planting.

Adam Dyck is Canadian program manager for Warburtons based in Manitoba. According to Dyck, the wet weather in Manitoba will slow things down for one of the largest food and drink brands in the United Kingdom — Warburtons sources Canadian wheat for its customers in the U.K. who purchase the company’s baked goods.

“Farmers need to get the crop in and right now that’s the biggest challenge. That said, farmers can get seed in the ground pretty quick once there’s a window of dry weather. Fingers crossed this will be the end of it; I think everyone is done with winter in Manitoba,” Dyck said.

McCallum says while the flooding might be inconvenient, there’s a silver lining.

“We had a total of 20 people made up of staff and community volunteers come out to help sandbag. I want to personally thank those volunteers for offering their help — it means a lot.”