Sask. farmers concerned about early melt, lack of soil moisture

The snow is gone and Margaret Hansen's fields near Moose Jaw are already dry.

Some areas got less than half the normal precipitation this winter

Saskatchewan farmers are concerned with the low spring moisture levels and early spring melt. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

The snow is gone and Margaret Hansen's fields near Moose Jaw are already dry. That's a concern given that she won't start seeding for another few weeks. 

Hansen said this is the second straight year with little spring moisture.

"We are definitely going to be looking for some timely rains in this area," said Hansen, who also serves as Saskatchewan vice-president for the Western Canadian Wheat Growers.

Farmers in most other areas are saying the same thing.

"It's pretty early to have bare ground," said Jim Wickett, a Rosetown-area farmer and chair of the Wheat Growers.

According to provincial government estimates, moisture in most areas is 60 to 80 per cent of normal. A few areas are at just 40 per cent. The driest appear to be east of Saskatoon and Regina and in the southeast between Moose Jaw and Maple Creek.

"We are definitely a little bit drier than we have been. We've unfortunately had a couple of back to back drier years. I know I wouldn't be unhappy if it rained for a little bit," Shannon Chant crop extension specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture, said.

Chant said some fields are better than others at retaining moisture. She said zero-till or low-till practices can help trap water and prevent it from running off to the streams and rivers.

'We'll be looking for some moisture'

Many areas of the province are expecting double-digit temperatures this week.

"I think really, basically by the end of the week here, there won't be much snow at the field level across the province from border to border really. I think we'll be looking for some moisture there," Todd Lewis, president of the Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said.

The weather is just one of many things on farmers' minds this spring. China has banned imports of Canadian canola, which is one of Saskatchewan's most profitable crops, worth nearly $2.6 billion in 2017.

Hansen is planning to plant nearly 6,000 acres of canola. Like most farmers, those decisions and seed purchases are made months in advance, well before the Chinese government's decision.

Lewis said farmers are hoping for the best.

"Hopefully, there'll be a convergence of some things and we'll get the trade issues worked out, and we can grow a good crop and get it marketed," Lewis said.

Wickett said things are not looking good, but that could always change.

"Who knows? We could see three more blizzards before May."