Dry Manitoba fields welcomed for seeding but not for growing, producers say

Even a rare rain Thursday didn’t bring enough relief to a province in dire need of precipitation.

Across southern Manitoba, a lack of rain and snow has some producers worried it could hamper this year’s crop.

“Well, as we know it’s been an exceptionally dry year,” said Kevin Stott, who farms near St. Adolphe. “It’s been dry for probably three years in a row now which brings some concerns.”

Not far from where Stott farms, fields resemble deserts with soil dunes building in some areas amid the dry conditions.

“You have seen those dunes,” said Stott. “It is very dry. It’s a concern.”

Low soil moisture levels and well below normal precipitation dating back to last summer have made for an unusual spring, including in the normally wet Red River Valley.

While the dry weather could make it easier for producers to get a crop in the ground, they worry yields could take a hit if dry conditions persist.

“We wonder how many years we can grow a crop with no rain,” said Stott.

Just south of Manitoba 70 per cent of North Dakota is experiencing extreme drought conditions, according to the United States Drought Monitor.

Charles Fossay, vice president of the Manitoba Canola Growers’ Association, said the situation here is also concerning.

“I understand we have somewhere between a 10- and 12-inch moisture deficit right now,” said Fossay. “It’s going to take a great many rains or a few very timely rains in order to help get a crop growing this year.”

He said some producers have already started seeding, the earliest start he can remember.

“A number of my neighbours have started in the last day or two,” said Fossay. “I think we’re setting new records.”

Inside the Perimeter, the Red and Assiniboine Rivers are noticeably low.

Sometimes topping the Riverwalk this time of year, the Assiniboine looks like a trickle of its usual spring self.

According to data recorded by the Water Survey of Canada, flows on the Assiniboine River at Headingley are below normal for this time of year but it’s unclear if any records have been broken.

Back on the farm, the fields may be dry but the glass remains half full.

“It does make for a nice seed bed right now or conditions to seed but we sure do need to have a couple good soakers which we haven’t seen in a few years now,” said Stott.

With an early start, he knows there’s still plenty of time for conditions to change.