Wet weather wanted

Sarah Ladik/Times-Herald Gord Knox examines a field of durum wheat in Moose Jaw on Friday afternoon.

Producers wishing for rain, waiting out the heat

Farmers and specialists aren’t using the D-word yet, but it might be approaching.

“Really nothing farmers can do, unfortunately,” cropping management specialist with the government Shannon Friesen told the Times-Herald on Friday. “Wait for the rain, pray for the rain, do a rain-dance, do everything we can to hope that it rains.”

The lack of precipitation combined with the high heat the area has been experiencing mean crops aren’t growing as well as producers would hope. Gord Knox can attest to that, and while he can water the raspberry bushes near one of his yards, he can hardly do the same for the fields.

“I’m not worried,” he said. “We’re all concerned, but we’ve seen dry before.”

Knox said he’s wary of wishing for rain after a decade of wet summers; he would rather deal in moderation.

“We grow better crops in two inches than 24,” he said. “But we haven’t seen this kind of heat in eight to 10 years.”

While canola does not do well under such conditions, other crops can tolerate a bit more adversity. Knox said his lentils have been loving this weather and the wheat has been able to eek it out.

“We had a couple of half-inches in June and that really helped us get into this hot season,” he said. “It gave the crops a chance to root.”

Friesen said wet weather last fall did not help at harvest time, but is now paying off with greater moisture reserves in the soil.

“The plants are still holding on, but overall, if we don’t get rain soon, things will continue to look pretty bleak,” she said. “Certainly we are in a better position around here than they are further south. The closer you get to the U.S. border, the more dry it is and the more dyer the situation for a lot of producers down there.”

The canola in particular can be a problem. Not only does it not like the dry weather, the excess heat has caused it to flower, which makes for pretty yellow fields, but not for high yields.

“Will probably be some reduced yield,” Friesen said. “We do not know how much yet until harvest rolls around. In some cases plants can recover and continue to flower on side branches, but it doesn’t really look like this weather is going away any time soon.”

Livestock producers are also reporting a possible forthcoming hay shortage, with some saying their yields are down to one quarter of what they would normally see. Some areas may not even see a second cut.

“Hopefully there’s enough in more northern parts of the province,” Friesen said, adding that farmers will often have hay left over from last year and that they will be able to shift supplies around within the province. “Neighbours helping neighbours is usually how it happens.”