Ag Weather Forum

Better Harvest Weather Ahead for W. Canada

Doug Webster
By  Doug Webster , DTN Senior Ag Meteorologist
The percent of average precipitation for the Prairies from April 1 to September 16 shows there remains areas of Western Canada that still are dry, but soil moisture overall has improved compared to earlier this summer. (Graphic courtesy of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Periods of wet weather have slowed or stopped harvest activities across many areas of Western Canada during early and mid-September, as a series of low pressure areas have brought rain and showers. The recent rainy weather has likely slowed harvest progress back to a little closer to normal, although the overall harvest still remains a bit ahead of the five-year average.

The good news is that good harvest weather appears to be on our doorstep once again.

A jet stream flowing from the Pacific Ocean across southwest Canada and the Prairies since late August has brought beneficial rains to the once very dry Prairies, but has also delayed harvest at times. Harvest got off to a good start and through the first third of September was ahead of schedule for nearly all areas, but recent rains have slowed or stopped combining and swathing operations in many areas.

The late-summer and early fall rains have improved soil moisture conditions substantially across Western Canada; soils that were once parched are now in good shape for fall seeding operations that are moving along quite nicely, weather permitting. The accompanying chart for the growing season rainfall is quite remarkable in that the majority of the region now has accumulated near or above normal rains since April 1. This same chart from late July was showing most of the region covered with brown and reds indicating drought conditions.

The good news for remaining fall seeding and harvest operations is that it appears we are going into a fairly lengthy stretch of mostly dry weather without serious cold conditions. While frost has visited some areas, we have yet to see the widespread frost and freeze that can occur this time of year across the Prairies.

A good deal of sun and increasing temperatures during the weekend will help get the combines out into the fields again and the modest cool down early to middle of next week should not have any major effect on combining and swathing operations. Some rain could push across the northwest and northern Prairies Monday, but only a brief disruption in the dry weather is expected.

With the expected return of good harvest weather, we would expect to see harvest progress, which has surpassed 50% across Saskatchewan, move forward nicely with some crops possibly reaching harvest completion in the not-too-distant future.

El Nino is expected to remain a major player for the remainder of the fall and early winter; many signs point to mild weather for most of that time. As we know, there are always some brief periods when colder weather will take hold, but in general mild weather should help get fall seedlings well-established before dormancy eventually comes along.

Doug Webster can be reached at doug.webster@dtn.com

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