Half the province on the dry side heading into winter

It’s a long time until spring, but soil moisture reserves are sharply lower compared to a year ago

Harvest conditions were largely excellent this year, especially when compared to 2019’s “harvest from hell.” But the flip side is that soil moisture levels in early November this year (on left) are quite a bit different from those a year earlier (at right).
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Much of the province’s farmland is dry, according to the latest soil moisture update from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

“Soil moisture reserves at freeze-up are highly variable across the province with about 50 per cent of the agricultural areas estimated to have below-average reserves at fall freeze-up,” said the Nov. 8 report. “Large areas that are drier than normal exist through parts of the southern Peace Region, the western half of the North West Region and throughout a wide band along the border area lying between the Southern and Central Regions.”

Parts of the province saw significant snowfalls in early November, including the northern Peace, the report said.

“This is a good start to winter snowpacks for this (northern Peace) area that has been suffering from a multi-year dry spell,” it states. “That being said, it’s not possible to predict with any confidence if this trend will continue or if it will end any time soon.”

But soil moisture reserves “are highly variable across the province, ranging from one in six- to 12-year highs along the western border of the North East Region to one in 25-year lows through small pockets located in the central parts of the Peace, North West and Central Regions.”

While it’s still early days, this soil moisture report is sharply different from the one from a year ago. In its Nov. 12, 2019 report, the Agriculture Ministry said soil moisture reserves were normal to slightly above normal in much of the province, with only the area around Red Deer, parts of the southern and northern Peace, and an area north of Lloydminster in the moderately low to low range.

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