Late spring start becoming a reality for farmers across Canada


Spring has not sprung. Spring is still buried in the hole that the groundhog climbed back into.

With a gross return to winter weather in the first week of April across much of Canada, farmers are facing the reality that it will likely be a later start this spring. But is panic setting in or just overall concern? I asked a handful of farmers from across the country to get an idea of where their spring sentiment is for seeding and planting timelines.

Peter Gredig (St. Thomas, Ontario): At this point the cold weather is more a mental downer than a yield robber. The forecast is not looking good for the next 10 days, but things can change quickly. I think most growers would be happy to have a shot at getting on the land anytime after the 25th of April. That is still very possible. On the positive side, winter wheat is starting to green up and looks good. Excess moisture is draining nicely from fields so all we need is some warm weather.

Steve Denys (Chatham, Ontario): There was some field activity before the rain in Chatham last week with some oats and carrots planted in this part of southwest Ontario. In general, soils are cool. Areas north of London still had snow on the ground last week. The Ottawa Valley and Quebec still have snow on the ground. Areas in the Maritimes were dealing with record snow for this time of year like in the Fredericton area. The earliest highs starting with a 2 are forecast for May 1 here. Given the long-range forecast for rainfall patterns I would say the earliest we will see activity is the first week of May. Some started planting corn last year the week of April 24th, so not an early spring this year.

Kevin Serfas, (Lethbridge Alberta): The way this is going, canola will probably be the first thing we seed. That’s happened maybe one time before. The weather is concerning, but I’m not in panic mode yet. I’m guessing we are at least 20 days a best out from planting. Late, yes, disaster at this point, no.

(Ron Krahn, Rivers, Manitoba) – I’m not really concerned yet. In recent years, our first day of seeding has ranged from April 11 to May 4, so we have some time. We are still around 90-100% snow cover in our fields depending on what last year’s crop left for stubble. But a lot has melted down and shrunk into a dense layer so I think it will melt quick once the weather changes. A prolonged snow melt also gives more chance for water to infiltrate into the ground so this long intro to spring isn’t all bad. I’ll get more concerned if we are still at this stage two weeks from now.  There are very varying reports as to how deep the frost is. That will affect how long it takes our soil to warm up once the snow disappears. Every year is different. That is one of the things that makes farming interesting.

Other thoughts:
Clearly, these farmers are not letting the current cold snap impact their optimism for the 2018 growing season. Across the country cold soil will be a battle for many farmers which will raise concerns over seed- and soil-borne diseases once the crop gets planted.

In Eastern Ontario, the continued wet bias could really cause havoc for spring planting, while farmers in the southern band of Western Canada seem to be more concerned about another year of drought versus seeding delays.

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