Ag Weather Forum

Soil Moisture Stocked for Early Crop Growth in Canadian Prairies, More Rain Coming

John Baranick
By  John Baranick , DTN Meteorologist
Soil moisture in the Canadian Prairies is analyzed as being near or above normal in almost the entire region. Only small sections of Alberta and Saskatchewan show anything significantly below normal in yellow. (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada graphic)

Wetter conditions during the last several weeks have kept seeding progress slower than average in the Canadian Prairies. Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been consistently behind the normal pace, but for a while, Alberta was ahead of it. Last week's crop progress report showed that progress slowed significantly and the province is now behind the normal pace. Though most of the region has completed seeding, it's still a bit behind average, compressing the growing season a touch.

Overall, the slower progress is not a terrible situation, as most of the crop throughout the region is in good shape with overall favorable soil moisture. That is despite drought that continues to exist. A new analysis for the Canadian Drought Monitor should come out during the week of June 10 which may drastically change the drought conditions in the region, but as of the end of April, abnormal dryness or drought covered almost all of agricultural lands in the Canadian Prairies. Some will still be left over after the update in the next week, but major improvements to the drought monitor are anticipated when it does update.

Soil moisture as a percentage of normal is near or above normal in almost the entire region. Some areas are not as wet as others of course. Small patches in Saskatchewan, central Alberta, and the Peace region are still moderately dry, but there are also some excessively wet areas in southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. That is even after some drier conditions during the last couple of weeks where only light rain has been falling in some of these areas.

The forecast continues to be somewhat showery through June 13. Despite a forecast that seemed to indicate better chances at widespread dryness last week, that is not coming to fruition and the pattern instead will allow some disturbances to move through the region this weekend, early next week, and mid next week. Precipitation does not look all that heavy for most areas. In fact, rainfall may be absent across much of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

But a system moving through June 10-11 could bring some moderate rainfall to Manitoba, where precipitation has been consistently above normal for a while now. Rainfall amounts will likely be scattered due to thunderstorms moving through, but model forecasts of over 10 millimeters (0.4 inches) look widespread and over 25 mm (about 1 inch) are possible.

And that is supposed to be the dry period. Thereafter, the upper-level pattern turns more active again, putting an upper-level trough in Western Canada while pumping up a ridge in the eastern U.S. That sends the storm track right through the region and a significantly strong storm system is forecast to move in June 15-16 and likely last in a couple of waves into the following week. Much heavier and widespread rainfall can be counted on from that setup, which may repeat itself for the last week in June as well.

With most of the seed in the ground, agriculturally speaking the soil moisture is a good thing. But depressed temperatures and limited sunshine are not all that ideal for crop growth. The short-term forecast is for more cool weather to stick around through June 10. After a brief break of some more seasonable temperatures, the cool air is likely to return with the larger storm system, especially for western areas.

While frosts are not uncommon for portions of the Prairies in early June, they are also not a favorable occurrence. Forecasts are for only limited opportunities for frost and mainly in far northern Alberta through June 10, though any area that sees clear skies and calm winds may fall dangerously close in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Models do not believe that the cooler air that moves back in will be all that cold.

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