Sask. farmers managing dry conditions

Sask. farmers managing dry conditions
Apr 15, 2019

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Soil moisture is lacking in several communities

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

Grain farmers in Saskatchewan are hoping Mother Nature can come through with some timely rains.

Several communities in the province are experiencing dry conditions in the top five centimetres of soil, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Satellite Soil Moisture map shows. Soils in places like Yorkton, Sask. are short more than 10 per cent of their normal moisture levels.

The dry conditions are the result of a shortage of snow over the winter. Farmers now have little room for error, said Gerry Hertz, a grain producer from Edenwold, Sask. and director with SaskCanola.

“We got some snow but not lots,” he told Farms.com. “You need rains at the right time and really there’s no margin for anything to go wrong.”

Hertz seeded his acres last year while conditions were dry. Whether or not that situation happens again this year will depend on how April plays out, he said.

“If the rest of the month is plus 25 (C) and windy, and you lose a lot of moisture to evaporation, it can dry up really fast,” he said. “We’ve never lost a crop at this time of year but the conditions are definitely on everybody’s mind.”

The lack of moisture goes beyond the first five centimetres.

Subsoils are also dry, said Sherrilyn Phelps, an agronomy manager with SaskPulse.

“There’s also a lack of subsoil moisture in some areas,” she told Farms.com. “If farmers go through a rainfall season and there’s less moisture for them to rely on, that could really impact crop yields.”

Producers will need to make some important decisions prior to seeding, she said.

“Farmers might have to choose between seeding a crop that’s more expensive and hope for rain or erring on the side of caution and plant something that’s a little cheaper to minimize risk if there is a drought during the growing season.”

Hertz agrees.

“If it’s drier, someone might change up their seeding order,” he said. “You have to seed canola a lot shallower whereas, with wheat or peas, you can plant them a little deeper.”

i-Stockr/Getty Images Plus photo

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