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Lack of snow across Canada brings concerns to the AG Industry

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With little snow on the ground, concerns over dry conditions continue to grow, especially for farmers across the Prairies.

Canada’s Environmental and Climate Change Meteorologist Terri Lang said patterns of dry weather conditions have been an ongoing issue throughout the year.

“There’s probably a number of things going on, we came out of a dry summer, which then we came out of a dry spring, so it’s just been overall a very dry pattern,” Lang told CTV News.

“As well, El Nino has set up. It set up a little bit earlier than anticipated and the El Nino patterns from much of Western Canada give us above average temperatures and below average precipitation. We’re already seeing that kind of pattern.”

The lack of snow for farmers in Saskatchewan is not unique to the province as below average temperatures are present all across Canada.

“If you look at the Ag Canada Drought Map, it’s pretty substantial drought across Western Canada,” Lang said.

"I think the farmers and the ranchers were all looking forward to dry [conditions] and to get some fall moisture into the soil before freeze up, and this is certainly a concern for them because it's just been too long.”

One agronomist from Yorkton said the amount of snow farmers receive over the course of winter helps prepare them for seeding.

“The water from the snow in the spring can be utilized in the soil for growing things, and that’s always a good thing because the soil warms up faster in the spring,” said Chad Zavislak, owner and agronomist at Northern Vigor Agronomy Services.

“In this part of Saskatchewan though, it might delay the soil warming up in the spring and if we do end up with a lot of snow in the back half of the winter, or if the spring is cooler and wetter, you’re going to see water running off as oppose to soaking into the soil.”

Farmers across Saskatchewan also share the same concerns about soil moisture conditions, said Jeremy Welter, Director in District Six for Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS).

“The lack of snow is a very big concern. I think we’re all quite pleased with how mild our winter has been so far, but it’s very important to remember that the snow doesn’t just provide moisture,” he said.

“It does a really good job of covering the ground and preventing further evaporation for drying out of the ground. A long term situation where the ground is not covered with snow over winter, it’s going to mean there is significantly less moisture come spring time depending of course on what kind of weather we get in the spring. It’s definitely a concern.”

Welter pointed out this is the third year in a row where farmers in the Prairies are facing a drought.

Aside from concerns about the weather, he said people should also be mindful about the economical impacts the continuous drought may have towards the Ag industry.

“Beyond the immediate future of what’s going to happen next week, next month, and next year in the spring, there’s economic concerns,” Welter said.

“Is it still going to make sense to spend the same money this year and then money we did last year to put down the same amount of nutrients when weather patterns seem to indicate that all the nutrients in the world won’t grow a crop without water.’

“It’s essential to producing a crop.”

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