'It is quite dry out there right now': Growing season in Saskatchewan off to a slow start
SASAKTOON -- Jeremy Welter farms near Kerrobert, growing wheat, canola, barley, lentils, and camelina, but cold temperatures mean Welter hasn’t been able to start seeding this year.
“You don't want to put the seed into the ground when it's too cold, you don't want to germinate too early,” he said. “There's always frost concerns. In the last number of years, I mean we've seen frost events that have caused a need for reseeding.”
The other issue farmers in the province are facing as the growing season begins is a lack of moisture.
“It is quite dry out there right now,” said crops extension specialist Matt Struthers. “Going into the latter half of May especially, or the beginning of June, we're going to need some timely rains.”
Struthers says snow accumulation over the winter was less than desired and a quick spring runoff contributed to the dry conditions.
“It got warm and all the snow was gone. Creeks didn’t fill, dugouts didn’t fill, and sloughs are still dry. The ground soaked it all up, and is drying out quickly.”
Struthers says these conditions are affecting the entire province, especially the southern half, and combined with the cold, he estimates just 5 per cent of seed is in the ground.
Welter says it’s still early and, while more moisture would be welcomed, it’s not at a critical point just yet.
“I don't think we're quite there,” he said.
“There's definitely moisture there, I think we've got enough to get some good germination. My bigger concern is what are we going to see throughout the rest of the growing season.”
“Germination still takes a week or so, so there's still time for a good precipitation event to happen,” said Struthers. “The moisture in the ground, once a root sets, there's still quite a bit there to keep that ceiling alive.”
Welter says the adoption of no-till practices has helped farmers maintain moisture levels in the soil.
“Not only are we sequestering, on an ongoing basis, incredible amounts of Co2 and providing a net positive, but we're also not drying out the soil,” he said. “Years ago when people used to till every acre, a wind event would come up and you'd see all of your all of your topsoil disappearing.”
“The fact that we're not disturbing the soil as much helps us to preserve not only the nutrients and the carbon that we've got sequestered there, but it helps us to preserve a lot of the moisture.”
Welter says it’s these uncertain situations that make crop insurance important for farmers.
“Some of our business risk management and our insurance programs are so incredibly important because at the end of the day, we put a pile of money into the ground through seed, fertilizer, chemical, iron, equipment costs, and there's absolutely no guarantee.”
The ask from farmers is simple; more heat, and more moisture.
“I'm optimistic,” said Struthers. “There's still a lot of time left, I think it's going to be a great year.”