All the water in the southern and eastern Prairies is a blessing and a curse. Water usually stands in the way of high yields for most Western Canadian farmers. This year, like 2010, it stands between farmers and their fields.
Most producers have little experience with too much of the wet-stuff.
If you draw a line straight south from Lake of the Woods to the Texas Louisiana border, everything to the east gets more than 20 inches of moisture annually. To the west, well it’s less, most years much less. So farmers in the west can’t really be blamed for asking the question, ‘where are all my mobile nutrients going when it gets this wet?’ Not since the last great la Nina in the mid-50s have they had this much moisture. After those years we built dikes on our land south of Regina. They seemed a little impractical during the el Nino years in the 1980s. I appreciate them today.
Nutrients go down and out mostly, however that isn’t the whole story as the soil profile has a way of directing and handling its ingredients along with its water.
The best way to find out what is in the soil this spring, besides the water, is by doing a soil test.
Otherwise all those great crop genetics won’t get the chance to prove what they’re capable of producing.
For most growers this year it will be a matter of setting a target yield based on available moisture and fertilizing accordingly, based on having a guesstimate of low residual, plant-available nitrogen and sulfur. There is a handy tool from Manitoba Agriculture that is based on many years of data capable of providing some answers about fertilizer economics (click here to download it). Robert Arnason of the Western Producer’s Brandon bureau wrote about the subject of fertilizer and soggy farm for the May 5 edition – Soil test verifies nutrient needs.