Drought concerns running high as #plant21 begins in earnest


This week’s Farmer Rapid Fire on RealAg Radio has confirmed one thing: there is some serious drought out there — especially across the southern parts of Western Canada.

The severity changes pending what pocket you belong to, but even areas such as the Palliser Triangle, which is known for its dry climate, is facing extreme conditions heading into the 2021 growing season.

Kevin Serfas of Turin, Alta. is one of those farmers worried about excessive dryness. It’s typical that drills are out at this time of the year, but as Serfas notes, “I don’t know why we are seeding. It won’t grow. It’s going into dry dirt.”

On top of a winter that didn’t see much snowfall in most areas, the wind has been blowing at record speeds in parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and repeatedly. If you are in one of these areas, you’ll likely agree with Serfas’s sentiment that the wind just won’t stop.

Buzz across to the opposite side of the country, and Prince Edward Island is worried about another drought-filled year, as Keisha Rose of North Lake PEI is looking at the dwindling seed supply they have for potatoes. Last year saw some precipitation, but as Rose notes, it simply “didn’t come when it needed to.”

In Rose’s area, there’s not much irrigation, and there is a constant ask for drought resistant potatoes. Those “perfect potatoes” we see in the grocery store need a significant amount of water, and if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, it causes difficulties.

(Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2021)

Remember that spring when Mother Nature’s water taps wouldn’t turn off? Well, southern Ontario could use some rain, too. Charlene Whattam of Douglas says the biggest shock for them this year was how quick the winter melt happened.

“We had a couple of feet of snow and within one day it was gone. I’ve never seen the like of it here in our lives before,” Whattam notes. “It’s on the dry side and it is quite early here right now. It’s a little nerve wracking as you look at the fields, and the look at the forecast going forward, and there’s not a lot of rain in the forecast. That’s unusual for this area for April and the first part of May.”

Much of southern Manitoba has the same sentiment that Serfas has: it’s extremely dry. Drills are stopping in hopes that some rain will come. Andrea Elias of Winkler, Man. says they didn’t get much snow over the winter, even though many more northern areas did. “We didn’t even have to snowblow the yard once this year,” Elias recalls. “So it’s been brown and dry for quite some time.”

We certainly cannot forget Saskatchewan in this conversation as the dry story continues. Cherilyn Nagel of Mossbank says the saving grace for them is the winter moisture that was more than they had witnessed in a couple of years. However: that moisture profile was in dire need of attention.

“I’m feeling pretty confident that going into seeding we’ve got enough moisture there to start a crop, but there just doesn’t seem to be any water around. It’s been too many years of depleting it, and there’s not a slough or any water running. Zero spring runoff,” explains Nagel. “When you see sloughs that are dry that I’ve never seen dry in my lifetime, it’s so eye-opening. It’s kind of bizarre to drive around the area this year and just see so many of what we thought were permanent sloughs, dried up. It’s going to be challenging this year.”

Check out the full RealAg Radio episode, here.

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