Cold weather points to seeding delays

If you’re wondering how the spring of 2018 stacks up with other years in terms of temperature, then you might be interested in the following information from the Saskatchewan Research Council in Saskatoon.

According to SRC climate researcher Virginia Wittrock, the month of March was cold.

March had 20 days with average daily temperatures below the 30-year norm, based on data recorded between 1981 and 2010.

The first two weeks of April weren’t much better.

According to Wittrock, 12 of the first 13 days in April had daily average temperatures below the 1981-2010 average.

In fact, during the first week of April. four new temperature records were set at the SRC’s climate station in Saskatoon:

• The maximum temperature recorded on April 6 was a chilly -8.6 C. That broke the previous record for the coldest daily high temperature of -7.5 C set on April 6, 1997.

• Also on April 6, a new record was established for the coldest daily low temperature ever recorded. The mercury dipped to -19.9 C, breaking the previous record of -13.9 C set in 1979.

• A new record was also set on April 6 for the lowest average daily temperature at -14.3 C. That was more than four degrees colder than the previous mark of -10.1 C set in 1997.

• And on April 7, a new record was established for the lowest minimum temperature at -18.3 C. The previous record of -15.4 C was set in 1997.

Wittrock noted that average daily high, low and mean temperatures throughout March were generally about 2.5 C lower than 30-year average values at Saskatoon.

Cooler-than-normal temperatures, combined with deep snowpack in many parts of Saskatchewan, have many growers anticipating a late and compressed planting season.

Daphne Cruise, a crop extension specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, said conditions in much of rural Saskatchewan point to a late start.

Growers in some areas could be delayed by two weeks or more, although much will depend on weather conditions over the next few weeks.

“I think it’s going to be late all across the board, all across the province,” said Cruise.

“It’s still early, but typically at this time of year, we usually see things a lot drier and a lot warmer, and those temperatures at night are still well below zero, (so that) definitely doesn’t help.”

Cruise said growers in the province’s southwest and southeast typically start scratching around in their fields in early to mid-April.

By April 15, it is not unusual for growers in southern areas to have two to three percent of the province’s crop planted.

But this year, many areas south of the Trans-Canada Highway still have snow cover, frozen soil and standing melt water.

“I think even in southern parts of the province, we’re not going to see any field activity for possibly another two weeks,” Cruise said in an April 13 interview.

Grower in the northern grain belt might not get started until mid-May.

“The northeast is often the last to get going,” Cruise said.

“Typically, they can be 10 days to two weeks behind the southern regions … so there’s a big change that has to happen in order for things to progress very quickly.”

Cruise said it’s probably a bit too early to speculate on whether growers will be adjusting seeding intentions in response to the late spring.

That said, significant delays could see more producers opting for shorter season crops, such as oats and barley.

Similarly, it remains to be seen whether seeded acreage will be significantly reduced because of wet field conditions.

What seems certain, though, is that machines will be rolling late this year, and the spring seeding season will be busy and compressed.

With three to four weeks of uninterrupted field time, the province’s growers can get the vast majority of acres in the ground, Cruise said.

Contact brian.cross@producer.com

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