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‘It is dry’: Manitoba farmer concerned about lack of moisture in the province and the impact on future crops

New data shows parts of the province continue to struggle with drought conditions. It’s been seen as a hit for farmers who have already had a tough year.

Most of the province is looking at moderate drought conditions, while some pockets of southern Manitoba, a lot of which is agricultural land, are more severe.

“The lack of snow means no moisture. That’s a bigger concern going to the spring,” said Thorsten Stanze, a farmer near Rosenort, Man.

He’s been farming in the area for nearly three decades and it is currently dealing with severe drought.

Data from Canada’s drought monitor found 98 per cent of the prairie region’s agricultural landscape was dealing with drought conditions as of the end of November.

“Because we had no rain last year, the subsoil moisture is gone,” Stanze said.

Stanze said the subsoil moisture levels in this area should be in the mid-30 per cent range, but right now, it’s about half that.

“It is dry. I think three and a half inches of rain over the whole year last year with a little bit of rainwater in the fall now. But I don’t think it’s enough to bring crop for next year.”

It’s a problem the Manitoba Seed Growers’ Association and its counterparts across the country are looking to address in the long-term by using genetic breeding of seeds.

“We’re seeing some traits that can be developed into these new lines of varieties that can overcome or be more resilient in drought or the opposite excess moisture situations,” said Jennifer Seward, the executive director of the association.

Seward added it would be beneficial for Canadians at the grocery store as well, as more reliable crops on the field would lead to more steady prices at the till.

As for the current drought situation, Paul Bullock, a senior scholar at the University of Manitoba, said a lot can change between now and spring.

“One single event, like a huge snowfall or a large spring rainfall event, can turn this around and can turn it around literally overnight,” said Bullock.

Stanze said he always holds out hope for the next season.

“If you farm, you have to be optimistic about the future. If you are a pessimist, you won’t be able to farm. It’s just not our nature,” said Stanze.

The drought monitor’s next report, which will give a snapshot of December, is expected to be released later this month.

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