The News & What it Means – Poor Fall Weather Threatens Prairie Spring Planting

By John DePutter & Dave Milne – November 12, 2019
The News:

“There was continued improvement in October, but abnormal dryness still hasn’t completely disappeared from Western Canada.”

Syngenta Market News, November 11, 2019
What it means:

Thankfully, relief from the dry spring conditions that have plagued some Prairie producers for the past three years. But it isn’t a perfect situation either, as thousands of farmers will agree.

In many cases, there has been far too much fall moisture that has not only badly delayed or even scuttled this year’s harvest but also raised concerns about the impact saturated soils may have on next year’s planting. Admittedly, spring is a long time away and plenty can still happen – the winter may bring very little snow and for all we know, the months of April, May and June could be bone dry again.

It’s more likely, however, that winter will bring the typical amount of snow and there will be the usual spring showers.

Indeed, AccuWeather’s fall forecast released a number of weeks ago suggested relatively normal snowfall for the bulk of the Prairies. And that could still mean trouble for farmers trying to get out on the land in a timely fashion to seed the 2020 crop. As can be seen on the map below, a huge swath of Western Canada, particularly from Regina east to Winnipeg (the dark blue area), has been hit by more than 200% of normal precipitation over the past 60 days.

Percent of Average Precipitation in past 60 days, as of November 11, 2019
(Copyright © 2019 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

It’s that moisture that has stalled the harvest and waterlogged many fields to the point they are now virtually impassable. What could make things even worse for farmers is if those same fields also still have crop on them that will either need to be harvested or disposed of next spring, potentially resulting in even further delays in getting seeding started.

Of course, the large precipitation deficits built up over the past three years mean some Prairie areas remain overly dry to this day, including portions of central Alberta and a pocket north of Saskatoon. But the bigger worry going into next spring now looks like it will be soggy ground and the possibility crops get seeded later than normal.

Weather the biggest market factor

For every crop market, the single most important factor affecting prices is the weather. Trade issues, shifting demand factors and currency movements are important and need to be assessed. But the weather still holds the most clout on the supply and quality – and is the biggest factor in farm net profits.

At DePutter Publishing Ltd., we monitor all factors and recognize with due humility that Mother Nature can change seeding, growing and harvesting conditions at a moment’s notice.

As one farmer once said, many years ago when John DePutter was starting the company: “Bear in mind that crop farming is one of the few businesses that is done outside – not inside – which adds a huge element of uncertainty. Never be too sure about where prices will go, because you can never be sure about the weather.”

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