Manitoba allows early-spring fertilizing

Given the region’s weirdly warm March weather, southern Manitoba farmers now have a one-time break from the provincial rule banning spring fertilizer applications before April 10.

The provincial conservation and water stewardship ministries said Tuesday they would temporarily lift the restriction effective immediately, three weeks earlier than normal.

The province said its move was "in response to recent record-warm temperatures and low soil-moisture content."

Keystone Agricultural Producers, the province’s general farm group, had sought a meeting Monday with provincial officials to get the ban lifted.

Normally the ban blocks farmers from putting down fertilizers after Nov. 10 and before April 10, as a way to prevent nutrient runoff by making sure fertilizers don’t go onto frozen soils.

This month, however, it’s a given that southern Manitoba’s soils are "no longer frozen," the province said, and the soils’ already-low moisture content will also help guard against nutrient runoff into waterways.

The exemption, however, does not apply to spreading of livestock manure, nor to fertilizing "sensitive lands along waterways," nor to lands classified as Nutrient Management Zone N4, the province cautioned.

Golf courses and driving ranges in the region must also still submit a nutrient management plan describing how they will manage nutrients during the 2012 season.

"Workable solution"

KAP president Doug Chorney said in the March 22 Manitoba Co-operator that winter wheat, timothy seed and ryegrass are going to break dormancy into this "really bizarre" weather.

Farmers "have to respond to that and assume we’re going to have precip(itation) through the season and will grow a crop, but we have to put the fertilizer on for that to happen," he told Co-operator reporter Allan Dawson.

Farmers could have individually applied to the province for exemptions, but that wouldn’t be practical in a spring when hundreds, maybe thousands of farmers are likely to want one, he said.

KAP thanked the province in a separate release Wednesday for the blanket exemption, but Chorney said in that release that the province still ought to review its rules and consider basing them on specific soil and weather conditions, rather than a fixed date.

“We see government moving in this direction with other regulations and hope that we can find a workable solution that ensures producers are able to work whenever conditions are appropriate," Chorney said Wednesday.

Related story:
Manitoba winter fertilizing ban begins Nov. 10, Nov. 5, 2011

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