Drought scout flags areas on Prairies

The western half of the region is at risk for low soil moisture

Parts of the Prairies could see limited soil moisture this growing season, as low precipitation and warm temperatures have compounded, a government specialist says.

“We went into the fall in a fairly good position, but over the first part of the winter we received very low snowfall,” said Trevor Hadwen, agroclimate specialist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Drought Watch program in Regina.

Key areas of concern are in western and southwestern Saskatchewan, northern and southwestern Alberta, the Peace region and other northern areas in B.C., he said.

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Limited precipitation and warm temperatures have led to low soil moisture levels in those areas.

“But it’s not concerning at this point because a little bit of spring rain can switch that situation very quickly,” Hadwen said. “We’re not in a huge deficit, we’re just a little cautious at this point.”

In most areas there will be enough moisture for seeding to get off to a good start, but the bulk of Hadwen’s concern is for perennial plants, grains and oilseeds.

“If they don’t have enough moisture going forward through the season, there’s not enough deep soil moisture recharge in some areas,” Hadwen said.

“Dry regions will probably continue being dry regions for a while,” said Drew Lerner of World Weather Inc. in Kansas City.

Later in spring, those areas will likely see beneficial rain, he said, which will continue into the summer.

“But the question is, how long do we have to wait for the better rain?”

Producers will likely have to wait until at least the first half of May — or even June and July.

Peace country and northern Alberta are not likely to see recovery from low soil moisture, but there should be enough precipitation to support crops, Lerner said.

“They’ll do OK. But they’ll be dependent on each little rain that comes along.”

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