Prolonged winter could cause problems for farmers

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Environment Canada officials have warned that most areas in central and western Canada could face an extended winter, which can mean an extended snow cover.

While an extended snow cover could mean more moisture for the recently drought-affected Peace River region, if the snow cover lasts too long, it could end up causing other problems.

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Snow cover can add some moisture to the soil, but a fair amount does run off because the ground is still frozen, says James Griffith, a product representative for production insurance with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

Griffith says although rain is still needed throughout the growing season, snow cover can help provide soil moisture which helps get the crop off to a better start.

However, he says an extended snow cover can cause problems when it comes time to plant.

Wheat and canola are two of the main crops grown in the Peace River area. Both require a longer growing season, which means being planted earlier in the seaon, but Griffith says if the snow cover lasts past a certain date it can become too late to even consider planting those crops. At that point, he says some farmers switch to planting barley and oats which have a slightly shorter growing season. However, he says if the snow cover lasts over an additional time period, it can become too risky to even plant those crops.

There are programs such as production insurance and AgriStability which can aid farmers in the event of a drought or if they have poor yields. However, these forms of aid are often based on previous years’ yields, which could be diminished if the affecting conditions are prolonged.

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