Late spring delays seeding
By Phil Ambroziak
Meadow Lake and area farmers aren’t ready to give up hope – at least not yet.
In spite of ongoing cool weather and the remnants of snow still covering most fields throughout the Northwest, area producers remain optimistic a modest harvest will still await them come the end of this year’s crop season.
“There’s no doubt things have been colder than usual this year and it’s been delaying everything,” remarked Ryan Wilfing, a grain producer who farms east of Meadow Lake. “As of right now, we’re a good two weeks behind what we’d call the average. We usually like to seed by May 4 or 5, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to until at least May 15.”
Wilfing went on to say nobody can fully predict the weather, adding a later start time combined with the potential for an early frost in the fall could shorten the overall season and result in a financial loss for farmers.
“It’s still such a ‘what if’ situation,” he said. “Who knows? If we end up having a hot, dry summer and a longer fall, things could catch up and everyone could be worrying for nothing. It’s always good to start as early as you can because we (farmers in the North) already have such a short window to begin with.”
Like Wilfing and so many others, Ashley Russell – a wheat and canola farmer also located east of Meadow Lake – is faced with a slow start to the season.
“We’re a little behind – probably by about a week,” Russell said. “But, I don’t think there’s much chance of anything bad happening. It will warm up eventually because, realistically, it’s not going to stay cold until June. And, with the machines and equipment we have today, you can usually put your crop in fairly quickly.”
However, Wilfing – who has been farming for close to 15 years – said he’s never experienced a spring like this one. Still, he too refuses to believe the recent weather is anything that will slow too many people down for too long.
“It’s not terrible because the last few years have been quite good,” he said. “If we had a few years in a row like the current one, you’d probably see more guys becoming a little anxious. It’s hard to speak for other producers, but it’s probably fair to say most guys have money in the bank (from the success of previous seasons). There’s also the government’s crop insurance program out there, so at least they can cover their costs. Every operation is different and, yes, it is late, but it’s not the end of the world yet.”
According to Dave Cubbon of Cavalier Agrow in Meadow Lake, it takes at least a week or longer for fields to be ready for seeding after the snow has melted. He also said it isn’t customary to plant before May 1.
“Doing so is risky in this part of the country, but the way things are now will certainly delay seeding,” Cubbon said. “The longer you have to wait, the more yield you start to lose and the more risk you accumulate. Crops could also take longer to mature because of the shorter days experienced in August and the risk of frost.”
As things currently stand, Cubbon believes some seeding could begin anywhere from May 5-10. Like Wilfing said, however, it’s all weather-dependent.
“If you can seed in early May, things could still be good,” Cubbon said. “If you wait to do the bulk of your seeding at the end of May, things aren’t going to be as good. It won’t be good, but it still won’t be a disaster. The weather is the key to the whole thing, but I’m still optimistic we’ll have a good season.”