Many get early start to seeding

Lynn Jacobson was done seeding on his farm near Enchant, Alta., by the first week of May.

“We’re probably three weeks ahead,” he said. “It’s very, very substantial.”

He believes most farmers in southern Alberta will be wrapping up seeding by the end of this week.

They were able to get out into the fields far earlier than normal due to unusually hot and dry conditions.

Most growers in the southern and central region of the province are hoping for a widespread general rain to stave off the drought that has been lurking around since last year.

“Last year (the crop) pulled through because of the subsoil moisture. This year in a lot of areas there isn’t that subsoil moisture,” said Jacobson.

Alberta is the furthest ahead but farmers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are also out in their fields earlier than normal.

Shannon Friesen, acting cropping management specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, didn’t have all the numbers in yet but she estimated 30 to 40 percent of the crop was in the ground as of May 9, up from the five-year average of 10 percent.

“For most producers it has been very, very ideal.”

“For once we have a good spring,” she said.

Growers in the south and western portions of the province were running out of moisture but there was rain in the forecast as of May 9.

Friesen said early seeding typically results in higher yields as crops avoid July heat damage and fall frosts.

Louis Haugen was seeding canola on his farm near Strongfield, Sask. on May 6. His usual starting day is around May 10.

“This year I could have been even earlier I think,” he said.

There is subsoil moisture on his farm but the surface is dry, which has its advantages. Haugen is able to seed the low spots that have been too waterlogged to seed the past couple of years and he doesn’t feel rushed to get the crop in the ground.

“I’m not wound up yet that’s for sure,” he said.

“It’s actually quite relaxing. There’s no sloughs so you just hit the auto-steer, sit back and read the paper.”

Seeding in Manitoba was 48 percent complete as of May 9.

Dan Mazier said it has also been a pretty stress-free spring on his farm near Brandon, Man.

“We didn’t have to do a lot of prep to our fields like other years when we were really wet,” he said.

Mazier was done seeding his peas and wheat by the first week of May and was busy harrowing and leveling some fields to get ready for other crops.

“It was dusty all day and you kind of go, ‘wow, this was the way it used to be,’ ” he said.

It has been a long time since he was able to put in 14-hour days seeding. He is still haunted by the wet years such as 2011 and especially 2014.

“That one really rattled me. I really appreciate these kind of conditions,” said Mazier.

“We’re sitting in our part of the world in ideal conditions right now.”

Pamela de Rocquigny, business development specialist for cereal crops with Manitoba Agriculture, said conditions vary by region and even by field.

But in general it has been a good and early start to the year, with 10 percent of the crop planted before May 1.

Autumn Barnes, agronomy specialist for southern Alberta with the Canola Council of Canada, said farmers were planting canola in the third week of April, which is well ahead of the recommended period of the first week of May.

But it was hot and dry and there was no cool weather in the forecast, so they went ahead and planted the crop and that could work out nicely for them.

“The later you go the more heat-blasting you’re going to get in July,” said Barnes. “In southern Alberta where it gets a lot hotter in July that’s especially a risk.”

There was no rain in the immediate forecast for Alberta but Barnes said it is too early in the growing season to despair.

Canola is a shallow-seeded crop that doesn’t need much rainfall to germinate.

“Even if we just get a little bit of rain that moisture can touch the canola,” said Barnes.

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