Prairie weather issues are increasingly under trade consideration.
Cooler than normal Prairie-wide weather -- plus dryness in western regions and wetness in the east -- has gained some market traction on ideas that yield potential this year may have already been compromised. And a frost event experienced in central Alberta and Saskatchewan overnight Monday and into Tuesday morning caught the attention of traders.
A couple of new record low temperatures were established in a number of the grain and oilseed-growing regions of Alberta that night. I suspect damage potential was minimal for oilseed and cereal crops, but that is difficult to quantify at this time. Weather, though, remains a point of increasing concern should present conditions persist for the various regions identified as potential problem areas.
Planalytics is predicting a cool summer for the United States' Northern Plains and the Midwest, presumably extending north to Canada as well.
The business weather firm says it is closely tracking two events that are providing a foreshadowing of things to come this summer. One is the transition from La Niña to El Niño. The other is the major eruption of a northern latitude volcano, Mount Redoubt in Alaska, in late March. Planalytics says both indicators suggest it will be cooler than normal across much of North America.
They say solar sunspot cycles are also a factor influencing the summer outlook. Solar eruptions (bursts of energy or coronal mass ejections from the sun) tend to occur around or near sunspots.
The company says the sun has been very quiet for the past two years with little evidence of sunspots. In fact, Planalytics says, you would have to go back to the 17th and 19th centuries to find a similar period with fewer sunspots. According to Planalytics, the earth was cooler during these quiet periods in the past.
It's far too early to be concerned about this yet. But if crop development remains behind normal in a cool summer environment, crops both in Canada and the U.S. may be more vulnerable to frost late in the season as the virtual lack of sunspot activity argues for colder rather than warmer temperatures this summer and into the autumn.
The absence of precipitation in the western regions of central Saskatchewan and areas of central Alberta has already dampened optimism for 2009 production prospects. The lack of moisture in near-term forecasts was also painting a worrisome crop outlook.
"Some of those areas in question have not received any substantive precipitation since the end of the last growing season," says Bruce Burnett, director of the Canadian Wheat Board's weather and crop surveillance department. "Essentially, there was no moisture received during the fall, winter and early spring period."
Burnett says it is very important that some rain falls soon in those areas in order to get the crops emerged and growing. According to precipitation maps provided by Agriculture Canada, less than 40 per cent of normal precipitation has fallen in the driest areas of Saskatchewan into the bottom half of Alberta during the April 1 to May 31 period.
The western third of Saskatchewan and the remaining regions of Alberta have only received 40 to 60 per cent of normal precipitation. Maps from Agriculture Canada covering the Sept. 1, 2008, to May 28, 2009, timeframe show record dryness in a region straddling the area located along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border in the central regions of the provinces. Moisture in the areas surrounding the record dry locations has also been extremely low, with the map indicating precipitation at less than 10 per cent of normal.
"Producers have already begun to see the impact of no rain in those regions given the very spotty emergence of the crops," Burnett says.
Also, temperatures over the past week have significantly warmed up in those areas, drying out any remaining topsoil moisture, he says.
The regions located next to the districts suffering from the lack of rain are also becoming a great concern, Burnett says.
"Some of the surrounding areas had some good sub-surface moisture levels to work with, but with the warmer readings and the absence of significant rain, those water reserves are also now being depleted quickly," Burnett states. "It's at the point where western Saskatchewan and Alberta are in critical need of rain."
Mike Jubinville of Pro Farmer Canada offers information on commodity markets and marketing strategies. Call 204-654-4290 or visit www.pfcanada.com to find out more about his services.