Year-Round Drought Management Decisions

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 Soil moisture management | Long-term water conservation and riparian management | Long-term range and pasture management | On-farm water storage | Marketing plan | Climate and weather patterns

Soil Moisture Management

Am I using appropriate soil moisture management?
Soil moisture management is important to prepare for and to deal with drought conditions on the farm.

Conventional tillage systems use multiple tillage passes for weed control, fertilizer application, seed bed preparation and seeding. Conservation tillage systems reduce the amount and intensity of tillage.

Conventional tillage systems can create a number of environmental problems such as:
    • increasing the rate of organic matter decomposition,
    • drying out the soil,
    • reducing the size and stability of soil aggregates, which increases the risk of compaction and crusting, and
    • burying crop residues, which leaves the soil prone to erosion.

Conservation tillage systems include zero tillage, direct seeding and reduced tillage. these systems reduce the amount of soil disturbance, conserve soil moisture, increase soil moisture, and enhance soil quality.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Drought Watch provides information on Managing Agroclimate Risk. The information here on farm management practices will help you to prepare and mitigate risk to your crops, livestock and land during drought conditions.

Long-term Water Conservation and Riparian Management

Have I considered all reasonable options for long-term water conservation and riparian management?

Long-term Range and Pasture Management

Am I using appropriate long-term range and pasture management?
As a range or pasture manager, the best preparation you can have for drought is to have the pastures in good condition going into a drought so that your efforts may focus on maintaining this condition during the drought. Managing pastures for good condition involves a number of different factors, but mostly relies on good common sense.

On-Farm Water Storage

Do I have adequate on-farm water storage?
In drought years and especially after prolonged drought, water can become a scarce resource. Most farms have dugouts which will trap snow, run-off and ground water. The size and quality of the dugout is important when ensuring that you have adequate on-farm water storage.

Groundwater is another resource on the farm and must be protected to ensure access to adequate, high quality water.

If drought is a common occurrence in your area, you may want to consider irrigation as an alternative for dryland farming.


Marketing Plan
Is my marketing plan up-to-date, and do I have or need a contingency plan?
Maybe the first question should be "Do I have a marketing plan?" A marketing plan is essential to maximizing profit under any type of weather or market conditions. Marketing means more than just selling. It encompasses setting financial goals, assessing risk, exploring pricing and delivery options, tracking for market opportunities, and controlling one's ego. Marketing an agricultural commodity begins before the commodity is produced. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry's Marketing Specialists have developed a marketing manual that covers the marketing musts for all types of agricultural production.

Once you have your marketing plan, it must be maintained and revised as market and weather conditions change. If the marketing plan is continually updated, you will have developed a contingency plan to maximize your profit during drought conditions.

Climate and Weather Patterns

Am I informed of climate and weather patterns in my area?
Farmers are risk managers who must manage climate variability along with all other sources of risk they face. Farm managers need to understand the climate and weather patterns specific to the area they farm in order to make sound decisions.

The AgroClimatic Information Service (ACIS) an interactive tool that helps producers, farm consultants, and researchers create maps. These maps describe Alberta's weather, climate and related agriculture features to help with your long-term planning and decision-making throughout the growing season. ACIS can be accessed on Ropin' the Web under the Maps tab.

Current weather conditions, including the daily conditions and five-day forecast, can be found on Environment Canada's website.


Other Documents in the Series

  Year-Round Drought Management Decisions - Current Document
Drought Management Decisions - Summer
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Isabel Simons-Everet.
This information published to the web on June 15, 2001.
Last Reviewed/Revised on October 4, 2017.