Drought Management Decisions - Spring

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 Current and long-term forecast | To seed or not to seed? | Crop selection | Contingency plans for pasture | Managing risk | Production insurance coverage

Current and Long-Term Forecast

Have I checked the current and long-term weather forecast for my area?
Looking at forecasts and reviewing normal conditions for that time of year can help increase the odds of implementing successful drought management strategies in a dry year. During a dry spring, it is important to be aware of both the current and long-range weather forecasts. Current daily weather conditions and the five-day forecast can be found on Environment Canada's website.

Long-term forecasts for the next three to six months, or even longer, are available and may be worth considering. Knowing what to expect over the short- and long-term can help you decide when to put your drought contingency plan into place.

Producers can view the recent Drought Reports for the Agricultural Region of Alberta and maps describing Alberta's weather, climate and related agriculture features through the AgroClimatic Information Service (ACIS) on Ropin' the Web, under the Maps tab.

To Seed or Not to Seed?

Is there adequate soil moisture to seed at this time?
The short answer is always seed - except on land which forms a thick crust after a rain. Always seed because you can not get a crop otherwise. Seed to the minimum depth necessary to get to adequate moisture to support germination. If this becomes too deep (over 3 inches for barley, over 3.5 inches for wheat, over 1.5 inches for canola), lift the seeder back out into the dry soil, seed, and hope for rain.

No one knows for sure when it will rain. However, the advantage of having the seed in the ground is that you will be able to put to use every drop of rain you receive. In addition, you won't lose moisture to seeding and tillage if you have seed in the ground before the moisture comes. If moisture never comes, then crop insurance is available through AFSC to help recover some of the loss.

Crop Selection

Have I selected the most appropriate crops to seed for current moisture and market conditions?
A crop may vary in its reaction to drought depending on things like the variety within a crop category, time of year the drought occurs, and the stage of growth when the drought hits.

The Crop Information Portal provides information on cereal and oilseed variety performance within Alberta. Important agronomic characteristics are given in tabular form for varieties of wheat, oats, barley, triticale and rye.

Contingency Plans for Pasture

Do I have alternate plans in place for feeding livestock if spring pasture production is poor?
When fall and winter moisture levels indicate that spring soil moisture may be depleted, it is a good idea to look at contingency plans for feed -- before spring arrives. Reacting to an emergency provides more stress and much less chance for success than activating a contingency plan. Your contingency plan may include any or all of the following.

Managing Risk

Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC) has provided Alberta farmers with hail insurance for over 60 years, and has grown into a diverse Corporation with several core businesses: crop insurance, farm loans, commercial loans and farm income disaster assistance and the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) Program. The purpose of CAIS is to provide Canadian agricultural producers with an on-going whole-farm risk-management tool that provides protection against both small and large drops in income.

Production Insurance from AFSC is a proven way to manage the risks of crop production. It’s flexible, allows producers to tailor coverage to their farm budget, and includes these features: unseeded acreage benefit, reseeding benefit, variable price benefit, unharvested acreage benefit, allowance for low yields, a quality guarantee. For additional protection, consider adding the hail endorsement, that pays for losses affecting a portion of the crop, without offsetting production from the non-damaged area.

Production Insurance Coverage

Do I have adequate production insurance coverage?
Production Insurance is available for most commodities and for a variety of named perils. For example:

  • Crop Insurance covers field crop production against drought, hail, excess moisture, insects, plant disease, frost, snow, wind and fire.
  • Farm Produce Insurance offers protection for farm produce such as: threshed grain, feed/fodder, hay/straw/silage, chemicals/fertilizers and milk. Insurance is commonly available to protect these products against such perils as: fire, lightning, explosion of gases, earthquake, collapse of building/bridges/culverts, cyclone, tornado, windstorm, collision or upset in transit, theft, smoke, impact by aircraft or vehicle and riot, vandalism or malicious acts. Insurance for other perils may be available as well, depending on the insurer or coverage you choose.
  • Livestock Insurance (named peril) is available against the following perils: fire, lightning, earthquake, stranding, sinking, impact by aircraft, windstorm, tornado, hail, smoke, collision or upset, flood, theft, animal collision, riot, vandalism or malicious acts, explosion, attacks by wild animals or dogs, artificial electricity, drowning, building collapse or falling trees, accidental shooting, entrapment and other perils, depending on the company and coverage you choose.
  • Farm Poultry Insurance offers protection of farm poultry, eggs, feed and supplies. Insurance is commonly available to protect these products against such perils as: fire, lightning, explosion of gases, smoke, tornado, windstorm, hail, blizzard, rainstorm, sleet, snow, earthquake, flood, huddling, piling, riot, vandalism or malicious acts, impact by aircraft, collision with vehicle and theft. Other perils may be insurable as well, depending on the insurer and the type of coverage you choose.
  • Mortality Insurance for Livestock, unlike named peril livestock insurance, mortality insurance covers the insured animals against any cause of death. This insurance is usually purchased only for the most valuable animals in the operation as the cost of the insurance is quite high compared to named peril insurance.
Although insurance is available for almost all commodities, supplies and equipment you may use in farming, you need to conduct a risk assessment to determine the appropriate amount of insurance needed for your operation. A risk assessment identifies:
  • the types of risk (perils) your farm is exposed to, for example your crops may be at risk of drought, hail or insect infestation; your animals may be at risk of fire, flooding, theft or collision.
  • the potential impact of each risk which examines how devastating the effects of the risk event would be if it occurred as well as how often the event would potentially happen.
  • the relative impact of these risks which refers to the significance that the farm business attaches to the particular risk in comparison to other risks the farm is exposed to.
For example, a risk assessment might indicate that on your farm, drought is the biggest risk to your production. If fall moisture and winter snowfall indicate that drought is a real possibility this year, you may decide to take 80% coverage in crop insurance instead of your usual 70%.
    On the other hand, if there is a low risk that drought will affect your hay crop and you have two years worth of hay in storage, you may consider purchasing a smaller amount of forage insurance such as 50 to 60% coverage. The low probability of lost yield and the added insurance of having stores on hand might make you more willing to accept greater drought risk in such a year.

    There are many insurance companies who offer production insurance and varoius types of insurance are available. The insurance agent can help you determine if you have adequate production insurance coverage for your farm. Be sure to discuss your coverage with your insurance agent to ensure you understand exactly what your policy does and does not cover. Examining your current insurance in conjunction with your risk assessment will also help you discover the appropriate level of insurance coverage for your farm.

    Other Documents in the Series

      Year-Round Drought Management Decisions
    Drought Management Decisions - Spring - Current Document
    Drought Management Decisions - Summer
    Drought Management Decisions - Fall
    Drought Management Decisions - Winter
    Drought Management Checklist
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    For more information about the content of this document, contact Marcia Hewitt-Fisher.
    This information published to the web on June 15, 2001.
    Last Reviewed/Revised on February 22, 2016.