Harvest progress across the Canadian Prairies region continues to move slowly or not at all, depending on where you are. Precipitation totals, rain and in some cases heavy snow, have averaged above to well above normal during the past 30 days. This is favorable for improving soil moisture for winter crops and ahead of next spring's planting, but the heavy precipitation has caused a significant slowdown in harvest.
We have also seen a sharp turn to colder temperatures across the region during this period. I have noted unofficial readings at key check points in Edmonton and Red Deer in Alberta; Saskatoon in Saskatchewan; and Winnipeg in Manitoba that show temperatures have averaged 11 to 13 degrees Fahrenheit below normal during the first 11 days of October. Extreme cold, with lows in the low single digits Fahrenheit, has been reported in northern Saskatchewan crop areas during this time period. The cold, along with wet or snowy conditions, means not only slowed harvest progress, but also slowed drying of crops in the fields.
The Prairies crop area is in need of warmer, drier weather to help dry out the fields and allow the harvest to resume. The problem we have at this time of the year is that an increasingly low sun angle and dropping average temperatures will make it more difficult to dry out the fields and melt any snow cover the further into the fall season we go.
During the next few days, the forecast shows precipitation totals across the Prairies averaging 0.25 inch or better during Friday into Saturday. Temperatures will still be well below normal; thus, the moisture is likely to occur as snow, and in some cases locally heavy snow. This will add to the problems already in place across the region. Temperatures are expected to continue well below normal through at least Sunday. Alberta area may see readings near or even above normal Monday and Tuesday, while Saskatchewan may see readings return to normal by Tuesday. Manitoba is likely to continue below normal through next Tuesday.
We continue to see hope for a more favorable weather pattern in the region during the 10-day forecast period. A cold, upper-air trough of low pressure, which has been parked over the Prairies recently, is forecast to relocate to between northeast Canada and Greenland. This likely means that the coldest weather during this period will be over eastern Canada and possibly the northeastern U.S. A second item of interest is the building of above-normal heights -- a ridge -- over western and central Canada. This ridge is indicated to cover almost entire extent of the Prairies. This should mean dry weather and above-normal temperatures at the surface, notably over the western sector of the region. This would be a welcome change from the pattern of the past few weeks, and should allow for improving harvest conditions.
Further out in time, forecasts through the end of October and into November indicate below-normal precipitation pattern and above-normal temperatures. If verified, this would suggest a continued more favorable weather pattern for late-season fieldwork. The problem, of course, is that normal temperatures continue to fall dramatically during November as the length of day drops rapidly as well. So, hopefully the warmer and drier weather will come in sooner rather than later so farmers can take advantage of the relatively higher temperatures when there is still enough daylight to get significant work accomplished.
-- Joel Burgio
© Copyright 2018 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.