Cool, wet growing conditions hinder area crops

Matt Gardner
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Crops in the Prince Albert area are behind their normal development for this time of year due to cool weather and excessive moisture experienced this season.

Prince Albert Daily Herald

While local farmers have largely avoided the biblical scale of flooding currently seen in southern Saskatchewan -- provincially, an estimated two to three million acres have been flooded and are unlikely to produce a crop -- P.A. has not been immune from the effects of high moisture levels.

“We had cool, wet growing conditions for the most part this year, and it really hasn’t been until recently that the sun has come out,” Ministry of Agriculture cropping management specialist Shannon Friesen said.

“So certainly those crops are a little bit behind in terms of development, mostly because they just haven’t had ideal growing conditions.”

Crops commonly planted around Prince Albert represent a mixed bag, with wheat and barley mingling alongside peas, lentils and a fair amount of canola.

With the last couple of seasons wetter than normal, many farmers have begun planting more canola and cereal crops to take advantage of the early spring moisture.

“Some crops respond better to moisture than others,” Friesen noted. “Certainly cereals can tolerate sitting in saturated soils for longer than, say, a canola plant or a pulse crop such as peas or lentils.”

Friesen described southern Saskatchewan as a “brown soil zone” where soils are normally drier than in northern areas such as Prince Albert (which she referred to a “black soil zone”). Sandier soils tend to hold moisture less than heavy clay soils.

Besides its effect on crops, the high amount of moisture in recent years has also affected the work of farmers -- though the difficulties can vary depending on how wet the soil is.

“There’s many reports of guys getting stuck in the fields,” Friesen said. “They’re making ruts as they’re spraying, even during seeding time. A lot of the crop is being mudded in.”

A background document to the Ministry’s weekly crop report for July 1-7 noted that much of northeastern Saskatchewan received rainfall this week that delayed crop development and spraying operations for many farmers.

At this point, two per cent of the hay crop has been cut and less than one per cent has been baled or put into silage.

Hay quality is rated as 100 per cent good, while pasture conditions are rated as 20 per cent excellent, 61 per cent good, 16 per cent fair, two per cent poor and one per cent very poor. Livestock producers have reported having adequate water supplies for their animals.

Topsoil moisture conditions on cropland are steadily improving and are now rated as 67 per cent surplus and 33 per cent adequate. Hay land and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as 84 per cent surplus and 16 per cent adequate.

The northeast has not entirely escaped flooding. Rainfall in recent weeks has flooded yards, roads and fields, many of which remain inaccessible.

Those crops are a little bit behind in terms of development, mostly because they just haven’t had ideal growing conditions. Shannon Friesen

Friesen indicated that the rest of the summer will be decisive for this year’s crop.

“We did have quite a long stretch of cool weather … The next four to eight weeks really determines what’s going to happen,” she said. “So hopefully the sun comes out and it stays out and it turns warm … to get these crops growing.

“There’s certainly optimal moisture in a lot of fields, as well as some with excess and some short moisture. It’s still too early to kind of tell exactly what’s going to happen at harvest, because it’s all very weather-dependent over the next month or two.”

Besides localized flooding, sources of crop damage in the northeast this week included hail, wind, insects and diseases. Farmers in the area are currently busy controlling pests, hauling grain and haying.

Provincial crop report

For Saskatchewan as a whole, warm weather in much of the province helped with crop development and haying over the last week.

According to the weekly crop report, livestock producers now have six per cent of the hay crop cut and one per cent baled or put into silage.

In the east side of the province, many farmers continue to deal with localized flooding and saturated fields. Though weather conditions have improved, many crops in the region remain affected by the excess moisture.

Topsoil moisture conditions are improving for many areas of Saskatchewan. Province-wide, topsoil moisture on cropland is rated as 34 per cent surplus, 64 per cent adequate and two per cent short. Hay land and pasture topsoil moisture is rated as 25 per cent surplus, 71 per cent adequate, three per cent short and one per cent very short.

Most fall cereals are in the shotblade to dough stages of crop development, while the bulk of spring cereals are in the tillering to shotblade stages.

Pulse crops, meanwhile, are largely in the vegetative to flowering stages. The majority of flax crops are in the seedling to flowering crop stages, and most canola and mustard crops are in the seedling to flowering stages of development.

Besides suffering many of the same sources of crop damage as the northeast (with insects such as the cabbage seedpod weevil taking their toll), provincial crops have also been damaged by root rots and leaf spot diseases.

Adequate water is available for livestock, and pasture conditions are rated as 27 per cent excellent, 62 per cent good, 10 per cent fair and one per cent poor. Farmers are busy controlling pests and haying.

Farmers can follow the 2014 Crop Report on Twitter at @SKAgriculture.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Ministry of Agriculture

Geographic location: Southern Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan

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