Mild winter, poor snow cover watched in Alberta, Saskatchewan


CNS Canada –– A milder than normal winter, with a lack of significant snow cover across much of Alberta and Saskatchewan, may be raising concerns in parts of the Prairies — but there is still plenty of time before spring seeding will begin.

“There’s not much moisture there,” said Harry Brook, crop specialist with Alberta’s provincial Ag-Info Centre in Stettler, of the southern and central regions of the province.

However, he added, “it’s still early” and spring blizzards or widespread rains were still strong possibilities.

The milder weather may have some farmers looking to get on their fields early, with some producers in southern Alberta possibly thinking of seeding by late March if the weather continues to co-operate.

However, Brook cautioned, seeding too early also raises the risk of damage from a spring frost. Some farmers “like seeding so much, they like to do it two or three times in each field,” he joked.

Farmers in southern Saskatchewan could also do with more snow or rain, according to Shannon Friesen, a crop specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture in Moose Jaw. However, the situation is the opposite in the northern growing regions, where the concerns are over excess moisture.

“We always have concerns going into the spring,” said Friesen, adding that conditions on the whole were still relatively good for the time being.

Looking beyond the moisture situation, or lack thereof, both Brook and Friesen noted the mild winter was leading to problems with grain beetles and overheating for stored grain and canola.

Brook said the grain beetle situation was the worst he’s seen in a decade, with more than double the normal applications for pesticide certificates coming in from farmers.

“It hasn’t been cold enough to kill off those beetles,” Friesen said, noting her office was also getting quite a few calls.

For canola, reports of supplies going out of condition due to overheating were widespread, and both Brook and Friesen recommended farmers keep a close eye on their bins and take measures to cool down any overheated supplies.

The milder winter also has the potential to create problems for winter wheat, if temperatures drop suddenly in areas with low snow cover.

“We’ve had similar winters and the winter wheat crop came out really well, but we’ve also had issues with winterkill,” said Friesen.

Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow CNS Canada at @CNSCanada on Twitter.

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