Good Soil Moisture East, Dry West


Soil moisture (from map)



Moist Water in soil in spring (inches)



Crop/Soil zone


Barley/ Dark Brown


Rain from May 1 to July 31 (inches)



Yield (bu./ac.)








30 89 46


I had help collecting this data. I’d like to thank Ken Panchuk with Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture and Alberta Agriculture’s website for the two provincial maps on which this map is largely based, and Andy Nadler, meteorologist with Manitoba Agriculture for his information.

I’d also like to thank Richard Warren of the Climate Unit of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) who supplied a rainfall map for August 15 to November 1 — which is the main period that can “fill” the soil profile with water — if there is enough rain. Also, thanks to Dale Tomasiewicz of AAFC in Carberry, Man., and Curtis Cavers of the Portage la Prairie facility.

Finally, a special thanks to Albert Dueck, Dueck Seed Farm, Fisher Branch, Man., for local information about that area. I will expand more on that in a separate column.

Here is my annual map showing the soil moisture situation across the Prairies heading into winter. This is the soil moisture, along with snow melt, that will be available for crops this spring. The map is not greatly different from the 2007 or 2008 maps.

Here is a province by province analysis:


Manitoba has no deficiencies, as usual. I was pondering a dry zone from about Carberry to the south end of Lake Manitoba, but a quick call to Dale Tomasiewicz with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Carberry, Man., and Curtis Cavers in Portage la Prairie, did away with that idea. Actually in a medium texture soil at Carberry, Dale reported that fall rains had wet the soil to about 18 inches. If you look at the legend you will see that is the exact boundary between dry and moist, so it was tipped into the moist range.

I have thought for a long time that Manitoba should have a different approach to the soil moisture map question. In the Palliser triangle of Saskatchewan and Alberta, we are always holding our breath and looking wistfully at the sky to see if we can squeeze out enough rain to grow some kind of a crop. In the Interlake and Red River Valley of Manitoba, they would like to have a big umbrella to run off the excess rain. They need a category painted purple which signifies soil profile at Field Capacity Plus and water table dangerously close to the soil surface.


Anything east of a line from about North Battleford to Moose Jaw is in good shape. West of that is dry.


Most of Alberta is still dry, including the usually well-watered central corridor from Calgary to Edmonton.

Table 1 shows some 2010 yield possibilities based on soil moisture and rain. If you listened to me last year you will have last year’s map and data handy to see how it turned out. By and large, yield outcomes in 2009 exceeded expectations in many areas, especially for canola, because of a cool July.

So, there you have some numbers to play around with when calculating “what ifs” for 2010. I warn you that the canola yields from my equations are on the low side for the yield potential of modern herbicide tolerant hybrid varieties. In recent years, cool July temperatures have boosted canola yields by a good margin.

Once again much of western Saskatchewan and Alberta will have to rely on timely rains during the big water use period of about June 10 to July 20.

J. L. (Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms near Dundurn, Sask.

About the author


Les Henry

J.L.(Les) Henry is a former professor and extension specialist at the University of Saskatchewan. He farms at Dundurn, Sask. He recently finished a second printing of “Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water,” a book that mixes the basics and practical aspects of soil, fertilizer and farming. Les will cover the shipping and GST for “Grainews” readers. Simply send a cheque for $50 to Henry Perspectives, 143 Tucker Cres., Saskatoon, Sask., S7H 3H7, and he will dispatch a signed book.



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