Farmers are asking snowmobilers to seek permission before riding across their fields.
What snowmobilers might not realize is that by compacting the snow under their treads, they could damage winter wheat and forage crops lying beneath.
"It’s a perennial issue with our members," said Keystone Agricultural Producers president Doug Chorney.
He knows all too well about riders who stray from the trail into adjacent fields because a snowmobile trail runs next to his East Selkirk property.
Juergen Schoppe, who farms near Poplar Point, explained that the snow cover acts as insulation for fall-planted crops. If this insulating layer is compacted or removed, the seedlings could be damaged or destroyed, which costs farmers like him money.
"There’s more and more winter wheat being grown," Schoppe added.
He believes snowmobilers should show more respect for property owners and take the time to ask permission before driving across open fields.
Executive director Ken Lucko of Snoman (Snowmobilers of Manitoba) said the non-profit organization’s 3,000 members work to establish and maintain 1,200 kilometres of groomed trails in the province. All members are expected to stay on the trails, but he acknowledges some snowmobilers do not.
He added that the groomed and signed trails present a safe place to ride.
"‘Respect private property and stay on the trail’ is a key position statement and education point that is consistently presented to all snowmobilers," said Ed Klim, president of the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association, which includes Arctic Cat, Polaris, Ski-doo and Yamaha.
Headingley Sport Shop sells Polaris snowmobiles and owner Jill Ruth said, "Our advice is to stay on the trails."
She wasn’t aware of the damage that could be caused to winter wheat and forage, or that more acreage is being planted to these crops. However, she said she’ll raise the issue with a snowmobile industry group.