Some Prairie areas too dry heading into freeze-up

Some areas across Western Canada are experiencing dry soils heading into the winter freeze-up — which could affect some crops trying to survive over the winter.

“There are some concerns with pasture recovery and just starting up the season next year,” said Trevor Hadwen, agroclimate specialist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

“In terms of native pasture, the dry fall doesn’t allow the recharge of the soil moisture, which doesn’t allow the plants to prepare as well for the winter as they normally would.”

Most of the dry regions are in Saskatchewan and Alberta, he noted, adding that “the dryer region is that central Alberta section stretching into Saskatchewan, probably closer to Saskatoon down to the Kindersley-Rosetown region.”

There are some dry regions in Manitoba as well, but many areas in the south and southwest of the province received some good precipitation this fall.

“The southwest (region of Manitoba) has received quite a bit of rain, getting a few of those storms that were popping up from the North Dakota,” Hadwen said.

Though the soil is too dry in Alberta now, it’s likely that things will improve in the spring, said Drew Lerner of World Weather Inc. in Kansas.

“We’ve had some snow events already (in Alberta) which helped to pad the dryness a little bit and it kind of suggests that maybe we’ll see some improvement in the spring,” said Lerner. “A lot of the snow that fell will help to keep frost out of the ground so when we do get into the spring thaw, the moisture will go into the ground fairly quickly.”

“Impressive bouts”

It’s still a wait-and-see kind of situation for the dryness problem in the Saskatchewan, though Lerner expects there to be a sufficient amount of moisture in the spring.

The first half of winter in Western Canada will likely see an average amount of precipitation and about average temperatures, he said.

Heading into the second half, starting in January, there will likely be less precipitation and a colder bias in the central and eastern parts of the Prairies. But in Alberta, temperatures are expected to be above average, Lerner added.

Though less precipitation is expected during the second half of winter, Lerner said the winter wheat crop should be fine as there will likely be enough snow to keep it covered.

“I think in general, the crop will probably be in fairly good shape,” he said. “There will be some very impressive bouts of cold that will occur, but I think we’ll have sufficient snow on the ground to take care of that. So, when it comes to the spring, we should at least get a fair start to the season.”

— Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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