Early start to spring predicted for Prairie areas

Most Canadian Prairie farmers can expect a dry start to spring.

“Run-off potential is certainly below average for a big part of the Prairies,” says World Weather Inc. meteorologist Drew Lerner. “Areas that have the biggest dryness issue are the areas that had the lightest and least amount of snow early in the season, and have the greatest depth of frost in the ground.”

The most recent Canadian Drought Monitor data classifies the area between Regina and Saskatoon as severe drought, and surrounding areas, southern Manitoba and southern Alberta as moderate drought.

“Lack of soil moisture for crop establishment and yield will be an issue in these areas,” Farmers Edge agricultural meteorologist Andrew Nadler says.


Lerner sees central and southwest parts of Saskatchewan as particularly dry, but some areas northwest and far northeast with abundant ground moisture.

Earlier this month, Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency released a spring runoff outlook calling for below normal spring runoff across southern Saskatchewan.

“It doesn’t appear that, despite decent precipitation during February, too much has changed from our February forecast for any part of the province,” says spokesman Ron Podbielski.


Snowpacks in areas generally north of Highway 16, which runs east-west through central Alberta, are at near normal or better, says Ralph Wright, Alberta Agriculture’s agro-meteorology manager.

“Run-off potential north of Highway 16 will be significant,” Lerner adds, explaining areas there were too wet last fall and much of the summer.

Many areas south of Highway 16 have moisture deficits, with east-central parts probably having the highest ones, Lerner notes.


Manitoba’s 2018 fall soil moisture survey results showed wet surfaces at most locations, but that the full soil profile was 80 to 100 per cent of water holding capacity in two-thirds of agro-Manitoba, and only 20 to 40 per cent in areas close to the Red River.

“2018-19 winter precipitation has been mostly less than normal throughout Manitoba, especially in the Red River Valley,” adds Lynn Manaigre, manager of Manitoba Agriculture’s Ag Weather Program.

Early start

Based on below normal 2018 growing season rainfall, limited fall precipitation in some areas and below normal snowpack, seeding is likely to start earlier, Nadler predicts.

Weather experts say below normal 2018 growing season rainfall, limited fall precipitation and below normal snowpack could mean seeding gets an early start across the Prairies this year. Tweet this

Better moisture base exceptions include areas from Regina to Estevan, Saskatchewan, and along the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border, he notes.

Lerner doesn’t anticipate spring moisture deficit improvements, but does see June, July and August providing timely, beneficial rain to central and southern Saskatchewan, southeastern Alberta, and parts of Manitoba “that will not only support crops, but help to improve the subsoil a little bit.”

Bottom line

Dry spring forecasts suggest farmers could begin field operations early, but insufficient moisture could impact crop establishment and yields.

Article by: Richard Kamchen