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Winter's impact on farming in Canada

Andrea Stockton, staff writer
April 10, 2012 — Spring has sprung and farmers on the east and west coast are trying to make-up for a lack of moisture this winter.

Lack of moisture this winter impacts crops
Lack of moisture this winter impacts crops

Gerard Oosterhuis is a farmer in Bow Island, Alberta and says the lack of wintery conditions this year is impacting his cereal and speciality crops.

"We didn't really have any winter moisture at all," says Oosterhuis. "We did get a little bit, maybe 20 mm in the fall and that kind of froze in, so that's giving us sort of a decent start. We also had a bit of snow at the end of March giving us a little bit of topsoil moisture, but we're sure needing quite a bit more here now.'"

Oosterhuis has an irrigation farm, which depends on water runoff from the mountains.

"And for our dryland farm, we of course depend on Mother Nature to provide."

He says farmers in Alberta are envious of the storm that brought over 40 cm of snow to parts of Saskatchewan over the Easter weekend. Still, the drier conditions haven't been all bad. It has allowed farmers to get a head start on the field work.

"There were people actually starting to seed in the middle of March and that's very abnormal for us, we should be going in at the start of April. So now we're about 15 percent finished already when normally we would just be starting," says Oosterhuis.

A bit of moisture from this point forward however, would be beneficial.

"We're not screaming dry around Bow Island here, but without enough moisture we wouldn't get a crop."

Farmers working the fields to get the plants in early this spring
Farmers working the fields to get the plants in early this spring

A certified organic farmer in Bouctouche, New Brunswick is also hoping for a strong growing season this spring.

"Even though everyone is saying it's going to be warmer we are still getting cold nights so I am a little bit worried about the cold slowing the growth of plants," says farmer Carson Edwards.

With barely any snow this winter, which usually acts as an insulating blanket, Edwards' greenhouse was a lot colder at night. The plants also struggled during the drastic temperature fluctuations making it difficult for Edwards to keep anything alive.

"Mother Nature, you can't control it, so you go with the flow and that's what we did. But yeah, it's a little disheartening."

Once the risk for cooler nights end, Edwards says they'll start working the fields to get the plants in early and hopes to make up for the losses this winter.

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