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Mixed Growing Conditions Continue Across Canada

06 August 2012
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

CANADA - “Across most of Alberta, ample moisture this growing season has eliminated early concerns of crop moisture shortages that were fueled by the onset of dry conditions last August which persisted well into February,” says Ralph Wright, soil moisture specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.

“A major area of concern still exists across much of the northern parts of the Peace Region, where below normal precipitation and extremely low soil moisture reserves coupled with warm temperatures have resulted in difficult growing conditions.

Unfortunately, this area has a very low station density and accurate, local assessments of moisture shortages remain elusive.

“Most of the province has experienced at least near normal growing season precipitation accumulations to date. In fact, approximately 30 per cent of the agricultural areas in Alberta see this much moisture, on average less than once in 6 to 12 years. Even more significant, through most of the Special Areas and across parts of east central and western Alberta, growing season moisture of this magnitude is only seen on average about once in 25 to 50 years.”

Looking back as far as 1961, some areas in the province are the wettest they have ever been. Generally, reports from these areas indicate that excessive moisture has not lead to any wide-spread significant cropping problems. Much of the precipitation has soaked into the soil, given the extremely dry fall and winter of 2011-12.

“In stark contrast, much of the northern part of the Peace Region, has generally missed out on the bountiful rains that the rest of the province has been enjoying,” says Mr Wright. “As of July 30 in those northern parts of the Peace, growing season precipitation was classified as moderately low, (one-in-3 to -6 years), which is misleading, since upwards of 50 mm fell during a two-day event that started early on July 17, 2012.”

Prior to that rainfall, the La Crete and Fort Vermillion stations had only received about 75 mm since the first of April. This is less than 50 per cent of the normal (160 mm) and occurs on average once in 6 to 12 years. Compounding the lack of precipitation, the 90-day temperatures trends were estimated to be at 1-in-50 year highs.

These extreme temperatures and low precipitation accumulations followed previously very dry conditions, with soil moisture reserves as of April 30 estimated to be amongst the lowest going back as far as 1961. Additionally, over the past three years, it is estimated that the area has lost out on over 400 mm of precipitation, due to persistently dry conditions. Over all, that’s equivalent to losing a total of one average year of precipitation (425 mm).

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