Dry conditions worry Manitoba farmers, but ‘not time to push the panic button’ yet: agriculture advocate

Many farmers across Manitoba are welcoming a forecast that calls for rain and snow over parts of the province this week, but they’re also waiting to see if it will bring enough moisture to wet the ground for crops to grow.

“Right now, we’re kind of night-and-day opposite to 2020. The spring of 2020 was very wet, very saturated,” said Jake Ayre, vice-president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, a group that advocates for farmers in Manitoba.

That means unlike warm weather lovers, farmers are looking at the special weather statement covering most of southern Manitoba as “a huge relief,” said Ayre, who farms grains, oilseeds and pedigreed seeds with his family in Minto, Man., about 215 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

The current snowfall warning says a low pressure weather system could bring 25 centimetres of snow to some regions and between 10 and 15 centimetres to others by Monday night.

And while snow often brings with it cold weather and sits in fields for a while before melting into the ground, Ayre said it will still help.

“We will take it. Beggars can’t be choosers,” he said. “It’s a bit of an insulation, but more importantly it will be moisture when it melts.”

Despite the uncertainty, Ayre said it’s still too soon to predict what this year’s growing season will look like — or make any decisions based on those predictions.

“As it stands, we’re concerned across the province, but it’s not time to push the panic button,” he said. 

“To put it in perspective, my father has always said to me, ‘In agriculture, we’re always three weeks away from a drought and three days away from a flood.’ And that’s the name of our game. Our weather is our biggest dependent and we make decisions right up to the midnight hour.”