Warm and dry weather has Saskatchewan farmers concerned about future yields

A dry upcoming season will make growing harder next year.

Farming is Jeremy Welter's livelihood, but recent weather conditions have made it increasingly difficult to grow his crops.

"You can put down you know the right seed, at the right point, and at the right time, all of the right nutrients. But without water you're not going to grow anything," he said.

Welter's farm is northeast of Kerrobert, Sask.

Warm and dry weather conditions in the province this past month have Welter and other farmers concerned about future yields.

In a recent report, the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency said that parts of the province are heading into winter with below-normal to well-below-normal soil moisture. This is due to hot and dry conditions in the summer and fall this year.

David Phillips, senior climatologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said –22 C is considered a cold day in November. Cities like Regina and Saskatoon saw no days reach this mark this year, Phillips said.

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Some parts of the province reached highs of 12 C in November, with minimal rain and snow.

Welter worries these will have effects far beyond just his farm.

"The vast majority of what gets produced in Western Canada, as far as grains goes, it's all exported," he said. "It goes to other parts of the world where there are, you know, very hungry people waiting for that food to show up."

Dry conditions consistent over time

Experts say the weather conditions don't come as a surprise, as Saskatchewan has been dealing with these patterns for quite some time.

"It's been going on for three to five years," said Phillips.

Phillips said he found that precipitation has been dropping in Saskatchewan every year for the past five years.

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He said he expects the weather through the winter to be similar to what Saskatchewan is seeing now.

Dale Hjertaas, president of the Regina Ski Club, said he has become familiar with unpredictable weather.

He said it's normal for the cross-country skiing season not to begin until after November, but that he's had to put away his skis much sooner than usual over the past few seasons due to weather.

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"It is noticeable to older skiers that our season ends earlier," he said. "We used to ski fairly reliably till the end of March most years, now we don't."

He said the club has considered finding a designated place where it can make artificial snow to extend the season, but that the idea is too expensive to undertake at the moment.

Welter said he has also noticed the consistently dry conditions over the years and that his farm has produced less as a result.

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"We were probably 25 to 30 per cent below what our historic averages are [this year]," said Welter.

He said his farm's production was below historic averages in 2022 and 2021 as well.

Farmers remaining hopeful

Phillips said not all is lost, as the period of November to March only makes up about 18 to 19 per cent of annual precipitation.

"So you don't lose your crop in November if you don't get the moisture. [There's] still some time to recover," he said.

Welter said it's best for farmers to adapt to what the weather brings, whether that be decreasing fertilizer inputs or changing what you're growing.

He said he remains hopeful that the weather will bring temperatures and moisture that help him and all farmers in the province.

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"As a farmer, we are ultimately running a business, and if your business is not producing anything, you're not going to be successful," he said.

This article was written for the CBC by Tyreike Reid. Header image: Farmers in the province worry that the warm and dry temperatures experienced in November will continue into the winter, threatening next year's yields. (Jake Leguee/CBC)