Alfred Slinkard, an internationally renowned crop scientist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, swivelled his chair around so that he could no longer see the dark, threatening clouds outside his office window, pushed his cap to the back of his head, and told a German commodity trader on the telephone how this year’s crop was doing. “Everything is at least two weeks late,” said Slinkard.
“We’d need practically the whole month of September without frost and that doesn’t happen very often.
We haven’t given up yet, but it doesn’t look good.”
Although the crop is lush and full because of the plentiful rain that most parts of the Prairies received this summer, once again a year’s worth of farm work is completely dependent on the weather during the crucial harvest season. Swathing—the actual cutting of the wheat—is beginning. Then, farmers need a week or two of warm, dry weather to ripen the grain as it lies in the field. Too much rain or a heavy frost during this period can tum a bumper crop into feed grain fit only for livestock.
Slinkard says that the weather is due for a change. “We’ve had more than six weeks of cool, wet weather,” he said. “That’s almost unheard of for us.” The good news is that as the rain lingers over the Prairies, grain prices are gradually creeping higher. With a sky full of clouds, it is a small silver lining.
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