Manitoba farmers seek extension on fertilizer deadline

Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) farm group is still seeking a blanket extension of the province’s Nov. 10 deadline for applying fertilizer and manure to fields — but the government is betting the blast of winter in the current forecast will render the request moot.

KAP president Doug Chorney said he saw lots of farmers doing fieldwork, including fertilizing on Wednesday while traveling from Winnipeg to northwestern Manitoba.

“There’s still corn being combined and because of the late-seeded crops there’s still tillage work and fertilizing as well,” he said in a telephone interview from near Cowan, about 120 km north of Dauphin.

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“If the weather co-operates I’ve seen on my own farm where we fertilized right to the end of November in the right year. We don’t have snow on the ground and it’s not frozen yet. There’s no reason why we can’t keep fertilizing or spreading manure.”

KAP maintains field conditions, not an arbitrary date, should determine when farmers quit fertilizing in the fall and when they start in the spring.

The restrictions, which also prohibit farmers from applying fertilizer and manure to fields before April 10, were introduced several years ago to reduce nutrient runoff polluting Lake Winnipeg.

Plants aren’t absorbing nutrients when the ground is frozen and unincorporated nutrients are susceptible to being washed into waterways.

“At this time we anticipate most producers will be finished in the fields and the ground will likely be frozen by Nov. 10, so it is unlikely that a general extension of the deadline would be implemented, but as always we will monitor weather conditions and review individual requests for an extension of the deadline on a case-by-case basis,” an official from Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship said in an email.

“We don’t think that’s acceptable because there’s no time for one-by-one exemptions at this time of year,” Chorney said.

Snow and colder temperatures in the forecast Friday for parts of southern Manitoba, followed by sub-zero daytime highs next week could force farmers from their fields.

In late March 2012 the government waived the April 10 restriction for applying fertilizer after a mild winter and early spring.

There will likely be more pressure to extend the fall fertilizing deadline in the future, so long as fields are not frozen, as Manitoba farmers increase their plantings of later-maturing crops, Chorney said.

— Allan Dawson is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator at Miami, Man.

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Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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