The Star: How climate change could transform the Prairies’ iconic landscapes
Western Canada’s cold and short growing seasons have historically prevented farmers from planting crops like soybeans. But as temperatures have risen and growing seasonshave grown longer, the extra days between the last and first frost have given farmers a chance to grow new, potentially more lucrative, crops. In a paper in 2011, Paul Bullock, a University of Manitoba professor, analyzed rainfall and temperature data from 12 Prairie weather stations and found that warming from the 1920s to 2000 has allowed farmers to plant more crops that are traditionally grown in the warmer U.S. states….
Although the temperature data shows warming, there is also great variability each year — which means big risks for farmers.
Bullock calls it a double-edged sword.
“You can put (new crops) in the ground but you may not get anything,” he said. “That is why there is interest, farmers would like to grow new crops but some people think it’s still a gamble.”
Most farmers can manage a reasonable middle range of conditions, Bullock said. “It is the extremes that kill you. It takes one night to drop down cold and bam, it wrecks the crop.”