Prairie producers may face late start in 2009

(Resource News International) — Producers in Western Canada should be prepared for a late start to spring seeding due to a combination of excess precipitation and cold temperatures, according to short- and medium-term projections from an industry analyst.

“The outlook for the spring is looking very similar to last year’s where moisture and cold temperatures kept western Canadian producers from getting into the fields early,” said Drew Lerner with Kansas City-based World Weather Inc.

There will be a lot of cold air over Western Canada during the early part of the spring, he said, and a lot more snow cover around than at the same time a year ago, which should translate into a later start to spring fieldwork for producers.

The exception to this will be in Alberta and parts of southwestern Saskatchewan, where crop models suggest the temperatures will not be as cold and the snow accumulations not as large.

“As the La Nina event grows stronger, there is a chance that the precipitation in the spring in Alberta and parts of western Saskatchewan will be diminished to some degree,” Lerner said. “Temperatures were also expected to be not as cold in those areas.”

La Nina is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, compared to El Nino, which is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.

“Mean-looking surge”

As for near-term outlooks, Lerner said there is “one mean-looking cold surge” building from Alaska and northward into the Arctic.

If the models are correct, he said, that cold will be sent southeastward across the Canadian Prairies, which will result in some particularly impressive below-normal temperatures.

Preceding the cold, however, will be a snow event similar to the one that hit regions of Canada during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, Lerner said.

The snow and cold were expected to impact transportation as they did during the holiday period, he said.

The snow was expected to hit Western Canada by the weekend and continue into the early part of next week, at which point the cold front was seen moving in, Lerner said.

The cold front will be followed by another snow event, which will also temporarily bring warmer readings back to the Prairies, Alberta in particular, he said.

“This return of warm readings will bring above-average temperatures to parts of Alberta and western regions of Saskatchewan, Lerner said.

However, by the last week of January, below-normal readings were again likely to cover much of the Canadian Prairies, he said.

Moisture accumulations between now and spring should provide enough of a runoff so that there should be little in the way of dryness, Lerner said.

Environment Canada, in its crop models for the January-through-March period, has called for below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation accumulations across Western Canada.

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