Mother Nature opens wide her bag of tricks

May is likely to throw a little bit of everything at prairie farmers trying to get the 2020 crop in the ground, say weather experts.

“A little bit of rain, some sunshine, some more cold weather,” said Drew Lerner of World Weather Inc. “It’s going to be kind of just a general mix of weather conditions across the region as we go forward.”

He predicts more rain and cold through the month in some areas.

“There’s going to be more cold than what folks would like in Manitoba and eastern Saskatchewan, but it will be pleasant farther to the west,” he said, adding that temperatures through western Saskatchewan and Alberta will also drop but not as much.

It is in many ways a typical start to seeding, except for those who had harvest to finish first.

“We’ll be starting whenever we finish 2019…combining to do after this yet,” said Kresten Jorgenson of New Brigden, Alta., who was baling, in response to a Twitter question.

Some said it was far too wet, particularly northeast and east-central Saskatchewan and west-central Manitoba.

At Carlyle, Sask., Trevor Doty said seeding began April 30, but after 12 inches of rain last fall, and getting stuck twice in the first 15 acres, he parked the drill.

“We are two inches of rain away from a real struggle similar to 2011-14,” he said.

Lerner said there will be plenty of moisture through July and August, particularly in the southern and eastern Prairies. East-central Alberta, which has been dry, will get some relief but will still be watching for some good rain, he said.

Bruce Burnett, markets and weather director at Glacier FarmMedia, said most farmers wanted a “spectacular” spring to get 2019 harvest and fall work done before seeding. Instead, they are getting an average year and need some warmer temperatures.

“It looks as if we’re going to remain fairly much drier than normal through the first half of May,” he said.

Burnett noted that 2019 drought areas in west-central and southwestern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta didn’t get enough fall rain to replenish subsoil moisture and will need a rain after seeding.

“But for the first few weeks of the growing season they probably have enough topsoil moisture because they did get some snow in those areas this winter,” Burnett said.

Farmers from southern Saskatchewan and Alberta report enough moisture to get the crop started but strong winds are drying things up quickly.

At Taber, Alta., Ben Dyck said seeding was well underway and he was about 75 percent done planting wheat, durum, fababeans, flax and was beginning potatoes, with seed canola to follow.

“Soil moisture (is) variable in top one inch but good below two inches in most fields,” he said.

While grain farmers want some dry conditions through May, cattle producers need the opposite to get pastures going. The cool, dry conditions of the past month haven’t been great for pasture development, Burnett said.

However, one area that struggled last year may be off to a better start. The Interlake region in Manitoba got some needed precipitation over the winter and spring that should help.

Burnett said the forecast looks generally good for May and there is no indication that there will be a combination of below-average temperatures and above-normal precipitation, which is what farmers don’t want.

Lerner added that if any region is going to be too wet this year, it will likely be southern Manitoba.

“I think overall, this will be a better year than last year in many ways,” he said.

On Twitter, farmers from across the Prairies indicated they are facing everything from too dry to perfect conditions, to snow, although many said they expected to get moving this week with harrowing and seeding.

“Please send rain,” said Nichole Neubauer near Medicine Hat, Alta.

Jeff Flowerday at Carrot River, Sask., would probably like to fulfill that request.

“It’s just a bunch of mud. It’s looking like three weeks. Add a few untimely rains and it could be June,” he said referring to potential seeding times.

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