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County of Forty Mile producers experiencing drier conditions this winter

Posted on February 16, 2022 by 40 Mile Commentator
Photo Submitted Craig Widmer

By Justin Seward

Commentator/Courier

Warmer, windier conditions hovered the southeast region last week, leaving farmers hoping this is only a short-term weather pattern and more moisture is in the forecast moving forward.

“And the lack of moisture—it’s going to be tough for the dryland farmers this year because last year we were pretty low on water, short on grass and short on feed,” said Craig Widmer, an Orion-area farmer.

“And with the low snow fall and now we have windy conditions, it’s just drying everything out. If we don’t get water and rain, and most of our water comes from snow— unless we get rains in the spring—it’s not looking too good.”

Widmer said he went into the fall with lower reserves moisture.

“So, it doesn’t look good, because usually we bank on our amount of snow in the spring for run off and seepage into the soil and around here anyways—well anywhere in the county I would think—we’re lacking that right now,” said Widmer.

Widmer said they won’t get the yields they are hoping for with the lack of moisture.

“And with high prices of fertilizer right now, it’s not very promising,” he said.

Widmer says he will be OK for his cattle operation this year and had to buy hay.

Widmer anticipates if thereis  another bad year on the horizon, that producers will take grass insurance.

“We’re depending on insurance to keep us going,” he said.

“And even us for next year, if the hay land doesn’t produce like it should, I don’t know the outlook,” he said.

Allen Kuizenga farms south of Burdett and echoed Widmer’s sentiments on the conditions.

“It’s not good right now,” said Kuizenga.

“But that can change. I’m always the optimist I guess.”

The windy conditions are taking top soil away.

“The life in the soil is the top six inches,” he said.

“You can’t regain it. It takes time. It’s the organic matter that’s blowing in the air—the dust you see is the organic matter and that’s the life of the soil. It takes forever to build again.”

Steve Wikkerink is an irrigation farmer in the northeast part of the county and said on the irrigation side, the top surface is pretty dry.

“Lots of guys fall irrigated, which means there (is) probably more moisture a little bit lower in the soil profile—which then our coming season plants will go down and find that moisture,” said Wikkerink.

“We rebuilt some of our reserve banks in the soil by being able to fall irrigate. But we’re still going to need some moisture in the spring in order to get some nice moisture back in the surface for a nice seed bed and in order get those seeds to germinate.”

Wikkerink said the challenge is if the land starts moving but the frost is still in the ground, basically up to the surface, there’s very little they can do.”

“What I think happened yesterday (Feb. 7) is at the peak of the gusts, we had a few fields that were dusting a little bit,” he said.

“When I got home, the wind had backed off (and) was still probably in the 65-kilometre wind range. And at that time when I got home yesterday, nothing was moving and settled down. We’ll just probably monitor it.”

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