Prairie seeding delays a growing concern

(Resource News International) — Cool temperatures combined with wetter-than-normal weather have caused some concern about seeding delays in Western Canada.

But few industry participants have pushed any panic buttons with there still being adequate time for seeding operations to begin.

“Right now seeding operations in Western Canada are looking as though they are one week behind,” said Mike Jubinville, a Winnipeg-based analyst with the farmer advisory service ProFarmer Canada.

Most of the delay has been tied to the colder-than-normal temperatures for this time of year which in turn have delayed the removal of the frost from Prairie soils, he indicated.

Wetter-than-normal conditions in a number of regions in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were also expected to cause some delays in getting seeding underway this spring, Jubinville said.

The start of seeding across Western Canada is extremely dependent on the region, said Bruce Burnett, director of the weather and crop surveillance department at the Canadian Wheat Board.

Producers in southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan generally like to start seeding operations by the end of April, he indicated. Producers in other parts of Western Canada generally want to be out planting crops between May 10 and May 25.

“Planting after May 25 will cause some concern and could result in the switching to shorter-season crops,” Burnett said.

“Conditions for seeding will need to be optimal if producers are to avoid getting too far behind in their seeding,” Jubinville said, noting that producers planning on seeding canola would like to be in their fields by the first week or May.

“Right now conditions are too wet as well as too cold,” Jubinville said.

Temperatures across the Prairies were expected to start warming up by the weekend, according to updated weather outlooks, Burnett said.

“The readings are expected to get to the double-digit Celsius levels across a good portion of Western Canada.” Burnett said.

There will also be a need for those temperatures to remain warm in order for the soils to get to a reading which will allow the seed to germinate, he said.

Temperatures have hit the 20°C level in some parts of Alberta, which has helped, but it will take another solid week of those kind of readings in order to get the frost out of the ground.

Little runoff

While there are no areas suffering from extreme dryness yet, there are some long-term concerns for areas of west-central Saskatchewan and east-central Alberta, Burnett said.

Those areas were dry heading into the winter freeze-up and did not receive a lot of snow cover during the winter. As a result there was little in the way of any spring runoff. Because of that there were some concerns about the lack of moisture in those areas based on a longer-term outlook, Burnett said.

Jubinville also noted that with today’s equipment, producers are not in a panic yet.

“With the equipment and technology available, producers can put a crop in the ground in a span of two to three days if need be,” he said, noting that 30 years ago it might have been a big deal.

There is high flexibility when the crops need to get in, he said, and if there are problems, there are other types of crops that can been seeded with shorter growing seasons and higher tolerance to frost in the fall.

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