Canada Markets

Past Saskatchewan Droughts and Effect on Yields

Cliff Jamieson
By  Cliff Jamieson , Canadian Grains Analyst
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The blue bars and grey bars point to yields for selected crops realized in Saskatchewan in past droughts in 1988 and 2002, as measured in bushels per acre against the primary vertical axis. The two lines with markers represent the percent change from the previous five-year average. (DTN graphic by Cliff Jamieson)

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Accumulated Precipitation map for the seven days ending June 9 shows rainfall hitting the northern and western areas of Alberta. There were lesser amounts received for much of Manitoba. Most of central and southern Saskatchewan failed to see any appreciable amount of precipitation.

DTN models point to the potential for only limited amounts of rain for the next seven days ending June 17, while daytime highs for the next five days ending June 14 are forecast to range from 3 degrees Celsius higher than normal in the west, to 3 degrees C lower than normal in the east.

The attached chart looks at yields achieved in two recent droughts in Saskatchewan in 1988 and 2002. In Environment Canada's top weather events of the 20th century report, the September 1987-through-August 1988 drought across the southern Prairies was reported as a $4 billion drought, at the time the hottest summer on record and was compared to the 1930s in terms of intensity and length. The organization reports that approximately 10% of farmers left agriculture that year and higher food costs were felt across the county.

Environment Canada viewed the 2002 Prairies drought as the top weather story for the country that year. AAFC reports that production losses reached $3.6 billion in 2001 and 2002, with the loss pegged at $2 billion for 2002 alone.

While there are many unknowns in terms of the current situation, we do know that both the cities of Saskatoon and Moose Jaw are reporting their driest spring realized in records going back more than 100 years.

The attached chart represents the effects to Saskatchewan crop yields for selected crops in 1988 and 2002. The blue and grey bars represent the yields realized, measured against the primary vertical axis on the left, while the lines with markers represents the percent change from the previous five-year average yield, as measured against the secondary vertical axis.

Yield losses relative to the previous five-year average was more severe in 1988, ranging from a 20.5% drop in canola yields to a 59.7% drop in lentil yields.

By coincidence, the yield loss relative to the five-year average was consistent across the first four crops shown -- barley, canola, oats and peas, while there was more variability over the two years across the final three crops.


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