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Dry, drought-like conditions impacting growing season in the Valley


Hot and dry conditions are scorching much of the province right now with very little rain in sight for the
near future. Many farmers across Manitoba, are beginning to get concerned for the future of their crops and livestock if the humid weather and lack of rain continues.
According to last week’s Manitoba Crop Report, the Northwest Region is seeing more crop stress and depleted levels of soil moisture due to the intense heat, thanks to temperatures ranging in the mid 30Cs.
Crops in the region are reporting bare patches, stunted growth and poor conditions overall. It’s reported that about 50 percent of canola crops are rated as good meanwhile the rest are falling into the fair to poor condition categories. Due to the dry conditions, canola files are patchy, shorter than normal, stagey and many fields have bare spots. 
So far, for local Valley farmer Darren Staples, who lives in the west side of the Valley, conditions seem to be a bit better thanks to some rain received in the area a couple of weeks back, but it won’t last for long
if more precipitation isn’t in the very near future forecast. 
“We’ve planted wheat, barley, canola and peas this year,” said Staples. “The crops are good for the most part.
The extreme heat from this past weekend isn’t going to be great for those flowering plants. They just can’t handle that kind of heat. We were fortunate enough to get some good rain showers a few weeks
back that may just get us through until the next bit of precipitation falls. 
“The one I am the most concerned with right now are the canola fields. It’s still flowering quite a bit and the petals can’t handle the extreme temperatures for that many days in a row. The soil conditions are fairly decent because of a few rainstorms we’ve received, so the moisture levels are good, but there’s
still not enough moisture to see us through. We definitely need some more rain. “It’s been a drier season
than normal,” noted Staples. “We’ve been seeing this the last couple of years and we’re gradually getting a little bit less each time. The last time I saw dry conditions of this scope was back in 2003 and 2004, it
was comparable to what we are experiencing currently.” In the southeast side of the Valley, conditions
are slightly worse, due to the lack of rain. The last rainstorm that hit the area bypassed the south and only fell in the western parts of the Valley. 
“Wheat in the western part of the Valley isn’t very good,” said Sean Baskier. “Some crops are holding on
meanwhile others were burnt off in the last round of the heatwave that we had. The canola out here looks better, but it too is thin, patchy, small pods, flowered too fast in the heat and is shorter than normal. A
good gauge of how the crops are doing is if you see farmers spraying fungicide. No one in our area is spraying fungicide right now. 
“In our area, we are working with significantly less rainfall than we have in the past. We didn’t get the rainfall that happened west of the Valley. I would say that rainfall gave at least six to seven inches of rain, meanwhile, in the area I live in, we had maybe three to three and half. Overall it’s been a wild year for
farmers from flea beetles to frost, cutworms to grasshoppers, high winds and a lack of rain. There’s not much Mother Nature hasn’t thrown at us this year.”
Farmer’s seed crops aren’t the only ones impacted from the heat. Many U-Pick berry farms are seeing a less fruitful year than normal due to the dry conditions. Some have had to shorten their season drastically meanwhile others just had to cancel it altogether. It’s been a brutal year for strawberries, but saskatoons
did fairly well, just many didn’t produce the normal volume for this time of year. “For our U-Pick portion
of our farm, we have had our saskatoons produce, but overall it’s been just too dry,” said Andy’s Toons
owner Brian Anderson. “We opened up for picking over a week ago. There are some berries for people to pick, but they are ripening so fast in this heat that they won’t last long. We’ve had a few people picking,
but I expect it will be done very soon due to the heat and lack of rain causing the saskatoons to dry up.”
Anderson not only has his U-Pick farm to worry about with these dry conditions, but also his bison herd to think about. The lack of moisture is impacting pasture conditions and hayfields, which is causing some cattle and bison farmers to look at relying on hay bales and feed a lot earlier this season.
“I have 200 bison and farm about 500 acres here in the south part of the Valley,” added Anderson. “I’ve been spraying for grasshoppers because they are trying to eat the pasture and crops. To my recollection,
I can’t recall it ever being that dry here. I’ve only received about four inches of rain since May and normally by now it would be around the 20 inches mark. “We still have some pasture for the bison, so
I am not turning to hay bales just yet, but I will have to start putting bales out sooner than I did last year. The earliest I have ever put out bales for the bison would have been in August, so this year it will
likely be sooner. Water supply is also a big concern too right now. So far I am ok with the water supply I’ve got in the dugout, but if that dries up, that will be another hurdle to overcome this season.”
The price of feed and hay bales have increased due to the poor growing conditions, which is posing an additional challenge to those needing it to feed animals due to the dry conditions. The lack of moisture has impacted so much this year when it comes to agriculture in general, one can only hope there’s some relief for farmers coming soon.