A smaller Canadian durum wheat crop is expected at harvest this year in the face of continued dry weather. The primary durum growing areas of southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan are experiencing their third consecutive dry year, with subsoil moisture low or depleted.
The most eastern prairie province of Manitoba is generally in better shape, but that region is known more for Canadian hard red wheat acreage that it is for durum wheat.
Bruce Burnett, chief market and weather analyst for MarketsFarm, says the overall growing season in the more westerly prairie region has been dry. While Saskatchewan and Alberta did receive some rain recently, those events were too little, too late to have any real impact on overall durum yield volumes come harvest time.
Burnett, “Well, the driest areas of the Prairies, from the get-go of this growing season, have been parts of southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. Those areas coincide with the key durum growing areas that really haven’t received a lot of rains. Last week was the first time they picked up some decent precipitation, probably a little bit too late to help the crops out significantly. Current estimate of durum production is down significantly.”
Durum wheat is used mostly for semolina pastas, also a primary ingredient for flat bread. But semolina pasta is the big market for durum.
To the immediate south of the Canadian prairies, Burnett says the U.S. Great Plains states are largely a mirror image of what’s happening north of the border. He says, “Of the Northern Plains that are very close to the Canadian border are indicating that crop conditions are not nearly as good as they were last year at this time. The forecasts right now are not favorable for picking up a lot of moisture in the coming weeks. And that is not good news for the Canadian or US spring wheat and durum crops.”
Ontario and Quebec in central Canada is currently in, or quickly approaching wheat harvest, but those regions almost exclusively grow winter-wheat varieties, mostly soft red and some soft white. Early yields are good to excellent, although some kernel-sprouting is being found due to late wet weather events.
Meanwhile the most easterly Canadian prairie region does grow some durum, but Manitoba’s acreage is dominated by Canadian hard red spring wheat. Burnett is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He says that his home province has consistently seen better growing conditions than prairie regions to the west.
Burnett, “When you look at the eastern Prairies things are a little bit better. We’ve had more moisture, better sub-soil moisture to begin the year with. Those areas are still looking okay, although the heat has started to take a toll even in those areas. The only regions to look good right now are in the northern growing regions, and even at that, it is spotty.”