Relentless heat wave and lack of rain scorching Saskatchewan crops

·4 min read
Crops face irreparable damage unless the province gets a significant rainfall, according to the Ministry of Agriculture's latest crop report. Environment Canada is predicting a heat wave with potentially record-breaking temperatures to continue well into next week.  (Tyson Koschik/CBC - image credit)
Crops face irreparable damage unless the province gets a significant rainfall, according to the Ministry of Agriculture's latest crop report. Environment Canada is predicting a heat wave with potentially record-breaking temperatures to continue well into next week. (Tyson Koschik/CBC - image credit)

Crops across much of Saskatchewan are scorched, stunted and thin as they wither under the unrelenting heat wave blanketing Saskatchewan, according to the province's latest crop report.

The sustained heat, combined with strong winds, little rain and a zero surplus in topsoil moisture, is threatening to cause irreversible crop damage and hastening harvest, the report said.

If that wasn't enough, heat-loving grasshoppers are now eating away at crops.

Adrienne Ivey and her husband farm about 10,000 acres near Ituna, 134 kilometres northeast of Regina.

She said going into the summer their land was the driest it's been since they started farming 20 years ago.

"The crops were looking like they were under a lot of stress and really starting to burn up," Ivey said.

"Our land is a bit rolling, so the hilltops were very dry and starting to burn off."

Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture
Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture

Ivey's land received about a centimetre of rain overnight Sunday, but she said no amount of rain will make up for the relentless heat stress crops are currently under.

"Just the heat alone, even if we had lots of moisture, when crops are flowering and it's that hot something happens called heat blast where the blossoms are actually damaged and cannot produce seed, so it's a difficult time of year to face this level of heat."

Daryl Fransoo farms about 6,000 acres near Glaslyn, 70 kilometres north of the Battlefords, an area which normally receives a lot of rain. He said rainfall is down to less than 40 per cent of an average year.

"It's desperate. Thirty above every day for the next week or so ... things are not looking up," said Fransoo, who is also chair of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers.

"Our crops are poor to say the least. The heat continues to take off bushels day-by-day. I really don't know if we'll end up with even a quarter of a crop at this point."

Temperatures across much of the province are forecast to remain above 30 C well into next week.

Terri Lang, a meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said there is no rain in the extended forecast, just "scattered showers or thunderstorms at best."

"This heat wave is expected to have a long duration and to be quite intense," she said, adding that the province could see temperatures break records early next week.

Environment and Climate Change Canada
Environment and Climate Change Canada

From the southwest corner up through central Saskatchewan, farmers are watching their crops burn.

Todd Lewis, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), farms at Gray Saskatchewan, 38 kilometres southeast of Regina. His land in southeast Saskatchewan is in one of the few areas to have received regular rains.

But Lewis said his crops are still at risk from the heat if they don't keep getting regular top ups of moisture.

"Really across Saskatchewan this year we're trying to grow a crop from the top down instead of from the bottom up. The soil's moisture tank is empty and there's no reserve moisture in the soil."

The latest crop report said topsoil moisture is currently at a "zero per cent surplus."

Hay and pastureland topsoil moisture is also at a zero per cent surplus, the report stated.

The crops are well past burning. They basically have burned up. - Todd Lewis

Lewis said spring rains jump-started crop germination, which used up early soil moisture reserves.

"We're seeing crops literally dry up and in many cases they're past the point of no return," Lewis said.

"Unfortunately in a lot of the province, the crops are well past burning. They basically have burned up."

Outlook-based Kaeley Kindrachuk is a crops extension specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture, which produces the crop report.

She said even with irrigation available to some farmers in the Outlook area, the heat, wind and now grasshoppers are hurting crops.

"For the most part, a lot of the crops look like they are burning up and they have a lot of heat and wind damage," she said.

"We're getting some grasshopper reports in some of those cereal crops, specifically in barley. So that's also not helping things out."

Kindrachuk said the farmland in southeastern Saskatchewan around Estevan and southeast of Regina is one of the few areas with moisture.

On average, crops are about two weeks ahead of a normal year and rain is badly needed, she said.

"It is too late to increase yield. What moisture will do now is help preserve the yield that we have, but also to limit our risk of having fires around here as well," Kindrachuk said, noting hot, dry weather increases the risk of equipment fires during harvest.

Kindrachuk said the Farm Stress Line is available 24-hours a day at 1-800-667-4442 for producers needing support.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting