Prairie seeding still a month away

Warm and dry weather conditions seen across Western Canada this winter may be leading to some talk of an earlier-than-normal start to spring seeding.

However, crop specialists in the three Prairie provinces say weather over the next month will play a key role in determining when producers actually get out on their fields.

The lack of snow cover and warm temperatures in Manitoba have led to some discussions about early seeding, but "at this point, it’s really too early to say when guys will be out there seeding… it is only mid-March," said Pam de Rocquigny, a provincial agronomist at Carman.

Weather over the next month will play a key role in determining when seeding starts, she said.

The warm weather is allowing producers to get a head start on getting their equipment ready, "so when it is time to seed, they’ll be ready to go," she said.

If conditions are right, producers in Manitoba are often in the field by late April, and can have a lot seeded before May 1 in some cases, said de Rocquigny.

A lack of snow cover in Saskatchewan this winter is also leading to some talk of an earlier seeding start, but "I don’t think we’ll see people starting much earlier than the later part of April," said Grant McLean of Saskatchewan’s provincial Agriculture Knowledge Centre at Moose Jaw.

That would be a normal start date for the southern part of the province, he said.

In Alberta, "I don’t see (seeding) being a whole lot earlier than normal, but I also don’t see it being a whole lot later," said Harry Brook, crop specialist with the province’s Ag-Info Centre at Stettler.

"It will be dependent on soil temperature," he added, noting that temperatures in most of the province were still dipping below zero overnight.

"If you seed too early, you’ll be hit by a frost event — guaranteed," said Brook, noting that there was no real rush to get on the fields earlier than normal.

If the weather co-operates and Prairie farmers are seeding in mid-April, shifts in acreage intentions are unlikely as producers have already made those decisions months in advances, said the crop specialists.

However, while the weather may not dictate if there are any shifts in acreage, market pricing signals could swing a few acres one way or the other, said McLean.

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