Spring flooding not a concern for Prairie winter wheat

CNS Canada — Some Prairie winter wheat-growing regions may have received large amounts of snow so far this winter, but flooding shouldn’t be a concern this spring.

“We’ve run into some problems when we’ve had snowmelt not moving off of fields” in the past, said Bruce Burnett, weather and crop specialist with CWB in Winnipeg. “But I don’t anticipate problems like that this year because the soils were relatively dry when we went into the wintertime.”

Some areas in western Saskatchewan and northern and central Alberta were very dry last fall, but that shouldn’t be a problem for winter wheat crops this spring as there’s enough snow to replenish the soil, Burnett said.

There’s also enough snow to protect most of the crops in Western Canada, though some parts of southern Alberta have smaller amounts of snow that could melt away with upcoming warmer weather.

“That would be an area of concern if we got cooler temperatures without any snow cover in front of it,” Burnett added.

Temperatures are expected to moderate during the second half of February across the Prairies, which will help alleviate any concerns about cold weather damage.

“It looks right now that we are probably through the worst part of the cool temperatures, for the winter weather at least,” said Burnett.

That said, if the snow melts and then freezing temperatures return, the crop will be more susceptible to winterkill because it won’t be protected. Melted snow could also freeze, creating a layer of ice above the soil.

“When you have the climate that we have, where we can turn back into cool temperatures through April even, that transition period between winter and spring is very critical,” Burnett said.

Western Canadian farmers planted 1.155 million acres of winter wheat this fall, unchanged from the amount seeded the previous season, Statistics Canada data shows.

— Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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