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Manitoba farmers anxious for moisture with spring seeding already underway

Manitoba's producers are getting out into their fields in record time to start the 2021 growing season, with some already planting thousands of acres of crops. Global Saskatoon

Manitoba’s light melt isn’t much to celebrate for most farmers, but it has left them being able to get a head start on growing season.

“It’s hard to believe it, but we never really had a ‘winter'”, longtime agriculture reporter Harry Siemens tells 680 CJOB.

“I don’t know the last time it was so dry.”

Environment Canada meteorologist Dave Phillips previously told Global News he estimates the province only received a quarter of the precipitation it normally would get between September and February.

Siemens has spoken with a farmer in the Portage la Prairie, Man., area that has already planted over 2,000 acres of wheat.

Read more: Manitoba farmers hoping for more precipitation as spring seeding looms

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“It’s not like he’s trying to show off to everybody, ‘Hey look at me I’m seeding early'”, he explains. “It’s a matter of (crop) management.”

Producers planning on a large amount of spring wheat can take advantage of the early start without much worry about what Manitoba’s weather is going to throw their way in the weeks ahead.

“I was fortunate to have some snowbanks behind my seeder so I wasn’t quite interested,” St. Andrews, Man.-area farmer Curtis McRae jokes to Global News.

“It’s starting to get pretty dry out there. I still don’t know if we can travel or not, but it’s making things interesting.”

Read more: Dry conditions expected to continue in southern Manitoba

“The conditions are perfect, they can go corner-to-corner. If it doesn’t rain, it doesn’t matter. If it starts to rain, then it’ll get a jump on other crops,” Siemens says

“Sometimes we’d plant early and snow would come lay on top of it, but it would come through really well.”

Most producers tell Siemens they wouldn’t mind which form of precipitation Manitoba sees in the next few weeks, as long as there’s something to kick-start the growing season.

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“I don’t worry about how dry it’s been until after I get the seed in the ground,” McRae explains. “That’s when I need the moisture.”

The dry conditions come much to the chagrin of Manitoba’s potato producers, who are not celebrating the lack of runoff from the winter’s snowfall.

Siemens says the farmers he’s spoken with have been mainly seeing bone-dry irrigation dugouts.

“It’s a critical issue. Sloughs, creeks and so on don’t have running water, so they can’t fill those water storage systems.”

Some relief may be coming the way of Manitoba farmers in the short-term, though. A low-pressure system from Alberta is making its way into the province this week, bringing with it up to 25 centimetres of snow in central areas of the province, and two to four centimetres in the Red River Valley.

Click to play video: 'Regenerative farming practices in Manitoba' Regenerative farming practices in Manitoba
Regenerative farming practices in Manitoba – Feb 18, 2021

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