Crunch time for Manitoba producers to fertilize

CNS Canada — The clock is ticking for Manitoba producers who wish to lay down nitrogen or phosphorous on their fields.

Wet conditions in many parts of the province are making it tough for farmers to get their machines onto fields, according to Dan Mazier, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers.

“We just drove from Winnipeg to Dauphin on the Yellowhead (Highway 16) and there were lots of fertilizer tanks parked on fields sitting there just too wet to complete,” he said Friday.

Producers in the province’s southwest had a good start to laying down fertilizer, but north of Winnipeg, many producers were delayed due to late-season hail.

“They were behind the eight-ball because in late October, early November, they were still harvesting,” said Mazier, who farms in the southwest at Justice, Man.

The delay is noteworthy as the province’s deadline for fertilizer applications is Tuesday.

From Nov. 10 to April 10, farmers are forbidden under the Water Protection Act from laying down nitrogen or phosphorous during that period, due to concerns over runoff.

“Mother Nature makes the ultimate decision, though,” said John Heard, a provincial soil fertility extension specialist at Carman, Man.

Last year, producers ran into similar problems with moisture, so the province issued an extension, to give them time to hit the fields.

However, Heard said, it snowed just a few days after the original deadline had expired, which effectively closed the door on applications altogether.

Ideally, he said, you want the same moisture as you would have for planting conditions, when applying fertilizer into the soil, “in order to do a good job with that machinery and those forms of fertilizer.”

Another factor to consider, he said, is how many producers are inclined to fertilize given present market conditions.

“Talking to some dealers, there seems to be a lack of desire to spend money on fertilizer with collapsing commodity prices and maybe not a lot of crop sales yet,” he said.

Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship is expected to announce Monday whether it will grant another extension.

Dave Sims writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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