Early Spring Was The Saving Grace For Some Crops

The drought-to-downpour conditions on the Prairies made Environment Canada’s No. 3 of the its Top 10 list of extreme weather stories of 2010; just behind the mild weather conditions for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Hurricane Igor descending on the Maritimes.

MAFRI meteorologist Andrew Nadler detai led just how extreme the Prairie conditions were in a presentation to St. Jean Farm Days last week.

Nadler said that some places in Manitoba experienced twice the normal rainfall. Normal-growing- season rainfall in the province averages between 350 and 400 mm. At the end of the 2010 season Starbuck received 703 mm, Moosehorn 655 mm, Ethelbert 625 mm and Morris 643 mm.

The saving grace for some producers was the warmer-than- usual conditions in April which allowed for seeding seven weeks early. “Our average (last) frost date is around May and seeding began seven weeks before the average frost date – that is dangerous. But, in a lot of cases seeding that happened in April were the best crops this year,” said Nadler.

In her presentat ion on “Canola and tight rotations – what to consider” MAFRI farm production adviser Ingrid Kristjanson also mentioned the impact of weather on crops in 2010, noting that Manitoba farmers on average lost 15 per cent of their intended seeded acreage.

Nadler said excess rainfall also affected forage crops.

“It was tough for hay producers, trying to know when you can drop your hay so it can get two or three days to dry.”

However, most farmers were able to take advantage of the unusual warm weather in late September to the end of October.

“The end of the season and early season were the ones that were just ideal for field work and really the beginning of October until about the 22nd, that is when a lot of the work could get done because we had a lot of dry soil in this case, as well as some really late harvest,” said Nadler.

Nadler said meteorologists and other weather watchers are finding that the weather conditions are getting more extreme, rather than following an average mean.

He said the concern is not as much the change in average weather as the change in variability, which has been increasing, making both weather and yield harder to predict.

Nadler said that looking towards spring 2011 there is a lot of uncertainty, but flooding is on everyone’s mind. The ground is saturated, but a spring flood will depend on the depth of frost, snow accumulation during the winter, rate of snowmelt, precipitation during the snowmelt, timing and distribution of spring melt, and the nature of the ice. These factors like the weather are changing daily and are still unknown, Nadler said.

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