Manitoba farmers have until Saturday, Nov. 10 to finish applying fertilizer to their fields.
Provincial government regulations prohibit the application of synthetic fertilizer and manure between Nov. 10 and April 10. The restriction is based on the presumption the ground is normally frozen then. Fertilizer and manure applied to frozen soil is more vulnerable to spring run-off, which can result in nutrients polluting waterways.
“The whole objective is surface water protection,” John Heard a soil fertility specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives said in an interview Nov. 2.
Dry soils earlier this fall delayed field work, including fertilizer applications, Heard said. But applications picked up following the recent precipitation, he added.
“I’m encouraged because I’ve seen a lot of people putting on fertilizer,” Heard said. “From the agronomists I have talked to it sounds like their growers are on the home stretch and finishing up.”
Most farmers work their fertilizer into the soil as it’s applied, which makes it less susceptible to run-off, Heard said. That also means they stop applying when the soil is frozen. Forage and winter wheat fields are the main exceptions. In those fields fertilizer is broadcast on top of the soil.
The Keystone Agricultural Producers will seek an extension to the Nov. 10 deadline, if weather conditions warrant, KAP president Doug Chorney said last week.
Snow in much of central and western Manitoba Nov. 2 and a forecast for below-freezing temperatures this week could shut down field work, including fertilizing anyway rendering an extension moot.
“Fall is the preferred time for application in our area (East Selkirk) because often in the spring it’s too wet,” Chorney said.
Many farmers in that area had not finished applying fertilizer because fields were too wet, he said.
An early spring this year prompted the Manitoba government to let farmers start applying fertilizer starting March 20 instead of waiting until April 10. A warmer-than-normal winter and unusually warm March resulted in soils warming up much earlier than normal.
Farmers can also apply to the government for an exception to the winter ban on fertilizer and manure applications.