Lethbridge (Rural Roots Canada) – With the drought expected to persist into planting this year, an agronomist is encouraging farmers to get their crops in the ground early.

Agronomist Scott Gillespie, owner of Plants Dig Soil Consulting Ltd., says with the drought the top of concern during the growing season this year growers should be thinking about seeding sooner rather than later.

“If you can get into the field and you can seed it, then you should seed it because it is very well established that the risk of losing ultra-early wheat to frost or anything is very low,” says Gillespie, adding the greater risk is grain-fill in the heat or running out of water.

He says farmers should make preparations so they can get into the field when the conditions allow them to.

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He predicts the biggest pests this year will be grasshoppers, adding that last year’s growing season had fewer pests for the most part.

“I mean, the flea beetles were still a problem, but in terms of disease, it was a very low year. So, I don’t anticipate it being a thing, but we won’t know. But I think that’s the one big thing we can look forward to is very little concern on that.”

Gillespie says the biggest piece of advice he can pass along during a drought like the one being experienced is not to focus on cover crops unless they are necessary, like potatoes, sugar beets, or dry beans, where you need to protect against soil erosion.

“In terms of dryland agriculture, cover crops are too big of a risk in this drought cycle and on irrigation, until we know where our water situation is, I’d focus on your cash crop first and then if there’s more, or if you want to do cover crops, then look at that.”

Plants Dig Soil is an advice-based consulting company in southern Alberta.