Red River deadlines to be extra tight this spring

Soil is saturated, fields are rutted and covered with trash, almost no fall fertilizer was applied and flooding is expected

ST. JEAN BAPTISTE, Man. — Seeding is always a race against time. This year in the Red River Valley, as well as much of the rest of Western Canada, it might be a full acceleration tear into tight corners with little room for braking.

That means farmers need to be set to hit the fields and get seeding without snags, snarls and delays.

“I call it NASCAR farming,” Jeremy Hughes of Horsch North America said during St Jean Farm Days Jan. 8.

Like the professional drivers and pit crews in auto racing, farmers need to have everything prepared and set up perfectly before the race begins to have a chance at winning.

“I’ve seen so many delays at planting-seeding time due to the smallest little details that could have been managed in the farm shop while it’s snowing,” said Hughes.

The timely message was well received by local farmers because they know they’re facing a challenging seeding season.

The soil is saturated. Fields are often rutted and covered with trash. Almost no fertilizer went down.

And a flood is likely to come downriver from the saturated soils and heavy snow cover of North Dakota and Minnesota.

“It’s going to be different field by field, farm by farm,” acknowledged Brunel Sabourin of Antara Agronomy, which is based in St Jean at the bottom of the valley.

“Not a lot of field work was done in the fall to help deal with some of the problems.”

Still, local farmers are feeling blessed they don’t have the harvesting nightmare common south of the line, and didn’t experience the dreadful production problems many further west on the Prairies experienced.

“We made a bit of a mess, but we got the crop off,” said Sabourin.

If farmers in the Red River Valley can get seeding and planting in good time, they should be able to minimize some of the ruts, put down some fertilizer and put in the crop.

That would allow them to avoid a possible run on fertilizer stocks that might strike farmers further west, who usually seed later.

Many farmers elsewhere, both west and south, also face spring harvesting of crops that were stranded by saturating rains and snowfall of the autumn. In North Dakota thousands of corn fields will stand in the snow until the spring, leaving farmers with extra operations nobody wants to undertake in the growing season.

Many western Canadian farmers face the same situation, with harvesting and field clean-up needing to come before the next crop goes in.

However, things could go bad in the Red River Valley if seeding is delayed, a major flood occurs and farmers can’t execute their crop plans.

Already local farmers are designing multiple contingency plans to deal with situations that could arise.

Every year, farmers deal with four potential spring situations. Will it be wet, dry, late or early?

The situation becomes especially anxious in years like this when farmers are already far behind.

That’s why Hughes urges farmers to be diligent about their preparations for this spring. Not having systems up and working, not having spare parts on-farm and in a location the farmer remembers, and not having back-up plans for dealing with problems could be costly when there’s no time to waste.

“Think ahead on these things,” said Hughes.

“Each little detail you can take care of now is going to buy you bushels in the end just because of timing.”

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