'Hoping for rain': Hot, dry weather stresses Sask. crops

Some parts of the province have seen less than 100 mm of moisture since April.

Crops plagued by insects and gophers, too

Saskatchewan producers can't do much other than wait for the temperatures to drop and rain to fall. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

Hot, dry weather conditions continue to burden Saskatchewan crops. 

Some areas in the southern parts of the province have seen less than 100 millimetres of moisture since April, according to the latest crop report.

The only thing producers can do is wait.

"I can't remember when it was last this dry. It's been a lot of years," Kelly Garchinski said. He operates a cattle farm with pasture land about six kilometres north of Regina.

"A nice two-inch rain in the next couple of days would be the best."
Kelly Garchinski has operated a farm six kilometres north of Regina for 20 years, and he can't remember a recent season being as hot and dry as 2017. (CBC)

Saskatchewan Agriculture released the July 4-10 crop report on Thursday. 

"Hoping for rain: that's probably the easiest and the hardest thing we can do," said Shannon Friesen, acting crop management specialist with the provincial government. 

The latest crop report suggests that most are developing "normally". However, there is a significant need for rain and cooler temperatures in some parts of the province. 

"Many areas they were quite dry to begin with at seeding time, and the rains didn't come," Friesen said.

Farmer Kelly Garchinski said he's never had cracks like this on his land. He said they've seldom had to cut the grass this year, but when they do it looks like a dust storm because the top soil is so thin. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

Certain crops in the south are thin or flowering earlier than normal because of heat stress. 

Conditions vary across the province, from excellent condition in the north to very poor in the south. 

A heat map illustrates the scorching conditions by showing the maximum temperatures across the province from July 4 to July 10. (Government of Saskatchewan)

Localized flooding and bouts of hail have also caused severe damage in other parts of the province.

There's been heavy rainfall in some areas, but Friesen said it's not as beneficial as a slow rain, because it dries so quickly. 

A map that illustrates the cumulative rainfall, or lack thereof, from April 1 to July 10 in Saskatchewan. (Government of Saskatchewan )

It's not just the elements that are affecting the crops.

"We're now seeing quite a bit of insect damage out there," Friesen said, adding it's not unusual to see insects at this time, but it's worse when paired with the other challenges. 

Pests like alfalfa weevils, caterpillars and wheat midge are damaging crops. 

"We've also heard of many areas where the gopher populations have exploded," she said.

A dry season isn't abnormal in Saskatchewan, but Friesen said it's "definitely worse this year," noting some producers could be on the brink of losing everything. 

Garchinski said the hostile conditions have him wondering what the next seasons will bring. 

"If we don't get some more moisture in a hurry here, we're going to have to start feeding the cattle hay that we have a lot earlier this year, and then we might run short." 

He said his farming friends are in the same boat. 

"They're all a little bit in panic mode and they're trying to line up other hay or buying hay and cutting as much as they can," he said. "It's going to be a tough winter." 

Producers should call crop insurance if they're dealing with a lot of damage, Friesen said.