Swift Current area littered with hail, causes crop damage

The Swift Current area was on the receiving end of a hail storm that came through on Saturday.

Richard Cuthbert is a wheat breeder with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, based in Swift Current.

He says the storm was heading towards the community, and by 6:20 p.m. that day the winds started to pick up, then rain, then hail came down for the next 10 minutes. The hail, which Cuthbert says came in two waves, was mixed in size, from pea and dime-size to nickel-size.

“We had piles in the yard of about 18-inches deep in the driveway and near the house,” Cuthbert said of how much hail came down. “It really accumulated in the ditches around our area near where the research station is there was still piles of hail that lasted until Sunday morning or even Sunday at noon.”

He lives less than one mile away from the research plots he works in, and was concerned about the crops.

“Immediately started to think about our wheat and durum plots – our research plots that are quite close to us,” Cuthbert said. The plots they do research on are called ‘grain yield plots’ which are used for grain samples for quality assessment and for grain yield for wheat, durum, barley, oats, canary seed and other crops.

“I immediately started to worry about all the research that could be lost with the storm of that magnitude.”

After the storm passed he surveyed the damage Saturday night and Sunday morning. He described the storm as being a mile wide that went through Swift Current, hitting the west side with plough winds, causing property damage before heading towards Vanguard.

“We were right in the middle of it,” he said. “I guess fortunately we have some land just to the north side of Swift Current and the damage is less there thankfully – that’s a lot of our irrigated materials…and they seem to be okay, much less damage than what we’d call ‘South Farm’ south of Airport Road. South of Airport Road where that hail hit is essentially 100 percent damaged, there will very little – if anything – that can be used for research going forward.”

He estimates they lost about 80 acres of research plots this year. Cuthbert says they’re looking at different options of how they can move forward.

“We have backups in place for a lot of the breeding material we can go back to, or the material is grown in other environments in Western Canada, so we do have sites funded by farmers near Pense, Saskatchewan and Indian Head, Saskatchewan, even into Manitoba,” Cuthbert said. “The loss of data we can’t do anything about that of course and that’s a real loss because you just can’t recreate a growing environment in any other way.”

“There will be a lag in some materials of a year,” he added.

Below are some photos Cuthbert took after the hailstorm:

Below are photos of wheat lines showing heat and drought stress differences before the hail:

Below is a video Cuthbert recorded of the storm:

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