Thursday, May 21, 2015

Drought in Prairie Provinces Hits Canola, Wheat

More than anywhere else in the world, Canada’s Prairie provinces yield canola seeds that are crushed to make vegetable oil used by McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell and Frito-Lay. This year, a dry spell has left the soil more like concrete, making it tougher for farmers to plant and threatening to cut production for a second straight year.
“We’ve just been missing every rain,” grower Eric McPeek, 30, said by telephone from his 4,100-acre farm in Coronach, Saskatchewan. McPeek sowed canola, durum wheat, chickpeas and lentils in ground he said was the hardest since 2010.
It’s been a rough ride for canola in Canada, where this year’s lack of moisture followed a spring-planting season in 2014 that was delayed by too much rain. Prices have jumped 18 percent from a four-year low in September. Dry conditions also make it harder to plant wheat, as weather disruptions in North America sparked a rally this month in prices that had been mired in a bear market because of record global inventories. Canada is the world’s largest wheat exporter, after the U.S.
“All of the crops are having trouble now,” Ken Kultgen, a farmer and the mayor of Foremost, Alberta, said in a telephone interview on May 14. Some of the wheat and barley seeded early in the province’s southwest haven’t germinated because of the dry weather, while his land hasn’t had rain since early April, and the soil is too “hard and crusted” to seed 320 acres of canola, he said.
Areas of Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada’s biggest crop growers, got less than 40 percent of normal rain this growing season, according to the government agriculture agency. Last year, planting was delayed in the Prairie provinces by too much rain, and was partly to blame for a 22 percent drop in wheat output and the 13 percent slide in the canola harvest.
Most of southwest Saskatchewan and southern and central Alberta have been dry for the past several weeks, said Andrew Owen, a meteorologist at Overland Park, Kansas-based World Weather Inc. Below-normal precipitation is expected for much of the growing season in the Canadian Prairies, and crop quality and yields may decline, he said. Most canola and wheat seeds need to be sown by early June to allow enough time to mature before the harvest in mid-October.
Weather-related trouble isn't just limited to California.  Or Washington.  It's somewhat disconcerting that the weather has been so fickle in so many places.

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