This winter has been relatively dry and any snow we have seen hasn't been enough to recharge moisture conditions.

Agri-Climate Specialist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Trevor Hadwen says we're going to need timely, consistent rains before seeding and throughout the growing season.

"We haven't recovered fully from last year's drought and previous years, but also because of the warmer, drier conditions that we've had this winter. Some of the areas have seen a little bit of snow, and some areas of the Prairies have certainly received the same amount of snow they would normally."

What's concerning is that we've also seen warmer than normal temperatures, which has been removing that snowpack and providing a lot of evaporation.

Hadwen says over the last three years the accumulation of droughts and the compacting issues are starting to cause some problems. 

The biggest area of concern in the Prairies right now is in Alberta for a couple of reasons.

"One being the northern portion of the province has been extremely dry this winter.  That's the Peace River area all the way down through Edmonton. Those regions have received extremely poor snow cover and snow accumulation this winter.  So they actually went into the winter in a much better position than any other part of the prairies, but have really declined this winter. So that area is in more of a short-term drought situation. Whereas, the southern portion of the province has received near normal precipitation through the winter, but over the last three years, the accumulation of drought and the compacting issues are really starting to cause some problems."

He says that's a result of lower-than-normal precipitation throughout the last three years, but the big one is the fact that last winter we had very little snowpack in those Eastern Rockies and very little runoff.

Last year, Alberta had a very early runoff and a very warm season where they used a lot more water than normal. 

Hadwen points out the irrigation reservoirs in southern Alberta are extremely low right now and reliant on that winter snowmelt in the spring to really recharge them. 

"We're still seeing some lower than normal values of snow in the Rocky Mountains that would be feeding that snow melt in the Spring. So there's a lot of concern for water supplies and surface water in the Southern Alberta area. That's a key concern not only for Alberta but Saskatchewan as well since a large portion of the province relies heavily on Lake Diefenbaker for its water supply. We certainly have a lot of irrigation coming out of that reservoir as well. That reservoir has already been lower than normal over the last couple of years. So if the water isn't in Alberta, we're not going to have the water in Saskatchewan."

Saskatchewan is still going into the spring with a lot of moisture deficits from previous years, as a result, its going to take substantial moisture to rebuild those soil moisture reserves.

He says the province is still dealing with some very long-term drought conditions, especially in the western portion of the province, but the latest snowfall has certainly helped.

"The areas that we're quite concerned about at this point include the Leader and Kindersley area, that whole West central part of the province, as well as some communities in the South Central region that are still very dry and haven't received a whole lot of moisture. Down in the Assiniboia area and down towards the Southwest as well."

Soil moisture reserves are going to take some time to build up on the western side of the province which is dealing with soil moisture deficits of 300 to 400 millimetres below normal.

The situation is better in Manitoba but there still is an area of concern in the South Central part of the province that has been classified as having extreme and severe drought conditions.

Hadwen says the area in question is located west of Morden, southeast of Brandon and southwest of Portage.

"They're dealing with poor soil moisture, poor moisture reserves, as well as some surface water conditions. So again, we're looking there for a lot of moisture this Spring, some nice heavy wet snow at the end of the season would be fantastic. "

He says conditions can change very rapidly in the Spring in that region."

Overall, the recent snow in the Prairies isn't going to be enough to pull areas out of continuous years of drought. Hadwen says we're going to need good moisture - snow or rain - before seeding and continual timely rains throughout the growing season in many areas to help carry the crop through, and recharge soil moisture, dugouts and grasslands.

To hear Glenda-Lee's conversation with AAFC Agri-Climate Specialist Trevor Hadwen click on the link below.