STARBUCK -- Drowned-out soybean crops have turned black with rot, machinery has left canal-like ruts through canola fields, and chunks of oat and wheat crops have fallen over from the weight of the weather.

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Farmer Chuck Fossay expects to lose one-third of his 3,800 seeded acres, and what he will harvest will likely be of poor yield or lower quality.

BORIS.MINKEVICH@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

Farmer Chuck Fossay expects to lose one-third of his 3,800 seeded acres, and what he will harvest will likely be of poor yield or lower quality.

STARBUCK -- Drowned-out soybean crops have turned black with rot, machinery has left canal-like ruts through canola fields, and chunks of oat and wheat crops have fallen over from the weight of the weather.

Now, waterlogged farmers worry the weekend's deluge of heavy rain will delay the harvest and lead to potentially severe crop damage.

"We should be in the middle of harvest right now and this rain has put us at least a week behind," said Starbuck grain farmer Chuck Fossay in an interview in his fields Sunday. "And as you get into September, the days are shorter, the nights are wetter, the morning is full of dew. "Instead of being able to combine for 14 hours a day, you might only be combining for six or eight hours and the harvest stretches out that much longer."

Intense downpours on Friday and Saturday poured more water on to grain fields that were already saturated from excess moisture.

Environment Canada meteorologist Pierre Lessard said Winnipeg recorded close to 50 millimetres of rain on Aug. 13, breaking the previous record set on the same day in 1949 when 46.9 millimetres fell. A flood watch was issued for the Interlake area on Friday, and Lessard said a total of 35 mm fell in the Gimli area over the weekend.

Keystone Agricultural Producers president Ian Wishart said the moisture is the latest blow to Manitoba grain farmers who struggled to plant their seed earlier this year due to unprecedented amounts of spring rain. August is prime harvest time for crops such as wheat, barley and oats, and Wishart said the wet weather means farmers can't get into their fields for several days.

Excess moisture deteriorates the condition of certain crops, and can cause them to start growing sprouts at a time when they are to be harvested. Wishart said that downgrades the quality of the crop, and means it will likely sell for less or be sold as cattle feed at a lower price.

"It's pretty severe. I mean, we already had more moisture damage this year than I think anybody had seen in a long time," Wishart said. "They were already in rough shape this year. It will be very damaging."

Fossay expects to lose about one-third of 3,800 acres he managed to seed this year. That doesn't include the poor yields he expects either.

"The yields have not been what we wanted," he said. "Some fields it has been as low as 25 bushels an acre for wheat, and on average we'd like to get at least 40. But we really need a 50-bushel acre to pay the bills."

Wishart said farmers were optimistic about the forecast conditions this year, and were able to get their seed in the ground early thanks to warm weather. That changed in May when Winnipeg recorded nearly triple its average monthly rainfall and storms drenched farmers' fields.

Lessard said August was on track for a normal amount of monthly rainfall until Friday the 13th, when torrential rain pummelled the city and other parts of southern and central Manitoba.

"That one day changed everything," he said.

Arborg-area farmer Kyle Foster expects it will be more than a week before he is able to get back into the field to salvage what's left of his wheat crop. Foster lost half of his wheat crop and 90 per cent of his canola crop due to excess moisture from the spate of spring rainfall -- the third straight year his fields have suffered severe water damage.

Foster said there was standing water on his fields prior to this weekend's rain, and that other farmers in the area have suffered similar damage. He worries the land can't handle such frequent rain, and said the trend is starting to have a significant economic impact on area farmers.

"I don't think we had much of a crop to begin with, so the damage that's been done now is just much more inconvenient. It will delay harvest and make things more complicated, once again," Foster said.

Rob Park, a farmer who lives just north of Carman, said he's lost about 20 per cent of his yearly cereal crops due to excess moisture. However, he said he's optimistic that the rain won't impact soybeans, sunflowers and corn, that are due to be harvested in another month.

"We've had 24 inches of moisture now since seeding time, and that's an incredible amount," Park said. " At least 20 per cent of the crops are dead and drowned out.

"The crop just succumbed to the moisture."

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca matt.preprost@freepress.mb.ca