Dry Prairies await timely rains

CNS Canada — Mounting dryness concerns in parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan are raising some concerns over crop development on the Prairies — but timely rains are in the forecast for early June.

“The entire southern Prairie region hasn’t received normal rainfall for the last month to two months,” said Trevor Hadwen, an agro-climate specialist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Drought Watch department in Regina.

He described the dry conditions overall as a “one-in-10-year event.”

A large portion of the northern agricultural zones of Saskatchewan, and into western Manitoba, was also starting to look dry.

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Much of central Alberta has also been dry for a long period, having received some rain, “but not near enough to get through,” said Hadwen.

The area around Winnipeg was also looking dry recently, but has seen some timely rains “and has turned around very significantly in a short period,” said Hadwen, noting conditions can change very quickly at this time of year.

“We are experiencing an extremely dry situation, but at the same time, timely rains could get us back to normal conditions,” he said.

“June will be a really important month,” said meteorologist Drew Lerner of World Weather Inc. in Kansas City. While he said it was “not a crisis yet,” he agreed a number of dry areas could become a concern.

The most important rain event will likely occur sometime between June 7 and 12, according to Lerner’s forecasts.

“It’s an event that looks to move west to east across much of the Prairies and it looks as though it will be favouring the driest area in eastern Alberta, and western Saskatchewan,” said Lerner.

“If it comes to fruition and it occurs as advertised, I think a lot of our crops will do very well for a while as long as we don’t get into hot conditions for very long.”

However, if the forecast rains fail to hit those driest areas, “we’re going to be fighting crop stress through the growing season,” according to Lerner.

Aside from the forecast June 7-12 rain event, he added, the bias was looking drier for most of the month of June.

While dryness is the major concern Prairie-wide, Hadwen noted there are still some problems with excess moisture in eastern Saskatchewan to watch as well.

Dave Sims and Phil Franz-Warkentin write for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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