Dryness delays crop

Satellite maps show that vegetative growth is behind normal at this time of year for much of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and pockets of Alberta, but it is too soon to worry, say the experts.

Maps from Statistics Canada’s Crop Condition Assessment Program are for the period June 5-11, and while the knee-jerk reaction is to conclude the 2017 crop is off to a bad start, it is far too early to be writing it off.

The map is coloured brown in portions of northern Alberta, much of northern and eastern Saskatchewan and western and south-central Manitoba, indicating poor vegetative growth in those regions.

Gordon Reichert, senior scientific adviser of remote sensing and GIS with Statistics Canada, said this year’s map is similar to a satellite map produced at the same time in 2013.

That crop got off to a slow start because of a cool and wet spring. By the end of the growing season farmers were harvesting a crop that would shatter previous production records.

“It’s anybody’s guess at this point,” said Reichert.

“If you get some rain and some nice weather, all of the sudden you can get a crop that just excels like it did in 2013,” he said.

And rain was in the forecast for much of the prairie region as of The Western Producer’s production deadline June 12.

Shannon Friesen, acting cropping management specialist for Saskatchewan Agriculture, said that is exactly what is needed for the southeastern portion of the province, where fields have become parched.

“A lot of those crops have not really germinated or they haven’t emerged very well,” she said.

“They are sitting in dry ground waiting for some rain.”

There have been drought concerns for portions of the prairie region, but when Reichert compares the 2017 satellite map with those of the drought years in 2001 and 2002, they look nothing alike.

The maps from those drought years were entirely light or dark brown by this time in the growing season. There is still plenty of yellow and green in all three prairie provinces on the 2017 map, indicating similar to higher than normal vegetative growth in those regions.

Friesen said it hasn’t been an ideal start to the year. The crop is about one week behind normal development in Saskatchewan because of seeding delays in the north and dry conditions in the south.

“Things are very slow to emerge pretty much province-wide,” she said.

“If you have moisture or you’re lacking moisture, we’re very much behind.”

Canola that should be in the three to four leaf stage of development was at the cotyledon or one leaf stage in many areas as of June 12.

However, Friesen agrees with Reichert when it comes to the fate of the 2017 crop.

“It’s still too early to really be concerned,” she said.

“All it takes is a good rain and some heat and those crops can quickly catch up.”

Dave Reimann, market analyst with Cargill’s MarketSense program, said the market is anxious about the delayed development but pleased that most of what was intended to be planted got in the ground with the exception of the southern Peace region and an area around Edmonton.

“It’s still early enough in the calendar that if we have some decent weather going forward we should be OK,” he said.

“Something I have seen in the past is that it does seem that crops can make up about a week if they get the right kind of weather conditions.”

The poor start to the year in the Canadian Prairies and the northern Plains region of the United States sparked a rally in Minneapolis wheat, but prices started to sag early this week with the forecast for rain in the spring wheat growing region.

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