Growing Crops in Below Average Moisture – Part 1

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Winter 2017–18 was cold, with little snow fall, and spring has begun as a very dry season with many predicting another drought year. Call it climate change, global warming, or any other term you prefer, but our growing conditions across the prairies are becoming hotter and drier.

The change in weather patterns, especially rainfall, is exposing many regions around the world to drought conditions. According to the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC): “…potential negative impacts include changes in the timing of precipitation, more intense precipitation events, the emergence of new pests, and, especially, the increased frequency and intensity of droughts.”

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SopHten Your Water

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I’m sure you’ve seen how hard water can leave its mark in and around plumbing fixtures and on clothing, but have you taken the time to consider what it means for your spray solutions?

Water across the Prairie provinces varies from moderately hard to very hard. If you are farming on the Prairies, you are, without question, dealing with some degree of hard water. And, as you may know, hard water goes hand-in-hand with high pH (greater than 7). Not only will hard water decrease the effectiveness of your crop protection products and foliar fertilizers, repeatedly spraying high pH water can make the soil acidic, creating a stressful growing condition for crops.

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Primed for the Season

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So far, the only thing predictable about the weather of 2018 is its unpredictability. From a winter that brought us an unusually low snow cover in most parts of the Prairies, to a very snowy March and a cool/cold April, it’s anyone’s guess how May will play out. 

Even though it is not without its challenges, producers usually want to get a jump on seeding, knowing that early seeding usually translates to bigger yields and better quality at harvest. However, early seeding isn’t the only factor in maximizing yield potential and quality. 

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Start Strong, Finish Faster

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Starter fertilizers get crops off to a great start by providing nutrition that might not otherwise be available due to cold, wet spring seeding conditions. The result is vigorous plants that establish quickly and are better able to compete with weeds, tolerate early-season stresses, pests and diseases.

Starters contain a supply of nutrients, strategically placed as close to the seed as possible. As seeds sprout, seedlings can quickly access these nutrients in a readily available form. Monitored R&D trials using various crops (canola, wheat, flax) revealed that the roots with Starter P in-furrow were three to four days ahead in their growth and development than those without a starter.

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Seeding into Cold, Wet Soil

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As producers across the Prairies are anxiously awaiting the start of seeding, Old Man Winter seems very reluctant to release his grip in some parts of the region. Spring temperatures have been trending below normal and the forecast is showing an increase in precipitation for most areas across Western Canada. In early April, frost was detectable at a depth of 7-8 feet in Manitoba.

So, what does a cool, wet spring mean for farmers who want to get a jump on the season?

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