Drought bullet dodged, but what’s next?

Crops drew heavily on water reserves last year, something that might be a problem with Manitoba’s meager snow cover

Manitoba managed to thrive last year despite scant rainfall, but skimpy snow cover might mean trouble when it comes to maximum yield next year.

Water was one of four things that Rigas Karamanos says will impact yield potential, along with genetic potential of the variety, solar radiation and fertility.

The senior agronomist from Koch Fertilizer Canada was one of several speakers at Ag Days 2018 to touch on maximizing productivity.

Yields were surprisingly high last year, despite rainfall dropping far below normal in much of the province. Crops were largely saved by wet soils in early 2017, a carry over from a snowy winter and wet fall the year before.

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That will not be the case in Manitoba this year, according to Karamanos.

“Right now, if we look at a lot of parts, they don’t have any snow,” he said. “This is going to be really dry in the spring, no doubt.”

Weather monitoring network CoCoRaHS noted half a metre of snow in the Interlake Jan. 17, with snow cover dwindling to the south. Only 11 centimetres sat on the ground in Emerson. In Brandon and Boissevain, that number was closer to 30 centimetres.

The winter may yet turn around, both Karamanos and producer groups have said

“It depends very much on how much snow we’re going to have and how we’re going to start,” Karamanos said. “That’s why the best thing to do is to go and measure what you have in the spring.”

His four factors may play off each other, he added. Last year, some crops found themselves gasping for phosphorus, despite a wealth of the nutrient in the upper layers of soil.

“The roots go to find water, so they went at depth trying to find water, then they forgot that all the nutrients were sitting on the surface,” he said.

A dry spring may also have secondary effects on mineralization and other factors to impact yield, Karamanos said.

Watch for more information from Ag Days 2018 in upcoming issues of the Manitoba Co-operator.

This year’s show runs from Jan 16-18. Minute-to-minute coverage can be found on Twitter at @MBCooperator, @AlexisStockford or @allanreporter (Allan Dawson).

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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