Poor harvest weather impacts crops across Canada

Harvest is supposed to be an enjoyable time of the year for farmers, where they enjoy the reward for the hard work put into producing their crops.

The 2019 harvest may go into the books as one of the most challenging in recent memory for most areas of the country. The main culprit has been cooler than normal temperatures that gripped the country from the middle of September into November. Add early snow and rain to the mix and you have the recipe for a slow harvest. 

Harvest across Canada was cold and wet this year. Here's why.

Siberian chill

The reason for the cool weather outbreak was related to a cold air mass located over Siberia in late September. The upper air atmospheric pattern over the North Pole allowed the cooler than normal temperatures to spill into Canada.

Below normal temperatures have been reported from late September to the end of November across the country. For example, temperatures during the month of October were two to four degrees below normal across the agricultural growing regions of the country. Some locations in the Prairies reported temperatures over five degrees below normal during the month of November.

The cool temperatures were accompanied by above normal precipitation as the jet stream settled over the southern areas of Canada. Hurricane and severe storm activity also pushed additional moisture in central Canada and the Maritimes. 

Harvest impacted across the country

The weather impacted the harvest across the country. The wet, cool weather delayed the potato harvest in the Maritimes and some areas were left unharvested. Manitoba’s potato harvest was also delayed by poor harvest conditions. Harvest operations were complicated by early snow and freezing temperatures, which also resulted in unharvested acreage.

The wet, cool conditions also slowed the row crop harvest in Ontario and Quebec. Soybean and corn harvesting activity was delayed into late November and some row crop acreage will have to be harvested in December if conditions permit. Quality of the crop both corn and soybeans have deteriorated due to the poor weather.

Prairie harvest weather was good during late August into early September, which allowed farmers an opportunity to make rapid harvest progress in the southern growing regions. The cool temperatures and persistent wet conditions continued during the last half of September through the first half of October. Snow during late September and early October also caused delays in the northern growing regions.

The conditions did impact the harvest quality of cereal grains in the northern growing regions. In some isolated areas, the harvest will have to be completed in the spring due to the early arrival of winter.

Although most of the harvest news was negative this year, there was one bright spot: the tree fruit harvest in central British Columbia enjoyed good harvest weather.

Bottom line

A cold air mass that settled over Siberia in late September may seem remote and distant, but it had a major impact on Canada's harvest this year.


Bruce Burnett is the director of markets and weather at Glacier Farm Media. Bruce can be reached at bburnett@farmmedia.com or via the website at MarketsFarm.com.