Prairie farmers face hot, dry summer

The Weather Network is forecasting a hot and dry summer for the Canadian Prairies with the exception of early June when it will be the opposite.

Meteorologist Doug Gillham said for the most part the weather will be comparable to last summer and will follow the pattern established this spring.

Widespread drought that is already in place in many regions is expected to worsen and expand throughout the summer months.

But crops should get a good drink in early June due to a temporary rearranging of the jet stream.

“It’s really nice that we’ll at least have this interruption that can replenish the soil moisture,” said Gillham.

He is forecasting two soaking general rains across the entire Prairie region during that period. The wet weather spell will be accompanied by cool conditions that will reduce evaporation and allow water to soak into the soil.

Shannon Friesen, crop extension specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture, hopes that forecast is accurate.

“If we do get some nice soakers in early June that is ideal timing for the most part,” she said.

“It couldn’t be better.”

It would help with germination, emergence and even establishment of the 2018 crop. It would also reload topsoil moisture and could seep down to the subsoil depending on where and how long the rain falls.

June rains would give a much-needed boost to Western Canada’s big money crop.

“At the moment we don’t have a lot of canola germinating in some of those dry conditions. The topsoil has dried out from the hot temperatures and the strong winds,” she said.

Gillham said it will quickly turn hot and dry for the remainder of summer after the brief early-June reprieve.

Manitoba is expected to have near normal temperatures while Saskatchewan and Alberta will be above normal.

There will be the usual scattered and sporadic thunderstorm activity that will deliver heavy rainfall to one farmer but skip his neighbour.

Friesen said the early June drink might be enough to take the crop to the finish line in some of the northern areas of the Prairies but she doubts it would suffice in the south, where drought conditions have existed since last summer. Another good rain in July would be desirable in those areas.

One more potential piece of bad news for farmers is that years where there were similar weather patterns tended to have an earlier end to the growing season as shots of cool fall weather occurred in late summer, especially in the eastern Prairies.

Friesen said that would be tolerable as long as the mercury doesn’t drop below zero.

“To get some cooler weather in August and September isn’t necessarily a bad thing but if it does bring a risk of frost then we do have concerns,” she said.

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