While many associate grains, oilseeds and pulses with the agricultural sector in southeast Saskatchewan, berry farms, particularly Saskatoon berries, are also grown in the region.
The warmer temperatures in Saskatchewan have led to some questions about the upcoming crop year, especially when it comes to the snowpack. For those whose crop depends on perennial plants, such as Saskatoon berries, one question that has come up is whether it is getting warm enough to have the trees activate early.
Paul Martin is a business commentator for Golden West. He was also involved in Saskatoon berry production for several years, owning a farm near Weyburn.
“The biggest fear, I guess, for Saskatoon production is that the trees activate too early, and they bloom, and you get a frost,” Martin explained. “If you get a frost on the night of the bloom, you’re pretty much hooped for the season because the flowers are delicate, and they just can’t take frost.”
The current temperature trend in the southeast isn’t quite warm enough for the plants to activate, Martin added. For that to happen, there would need to be an extended period where the daytime highs were getting into the double digits, and the soil was warmer.
Having a crop affected by a frost has happened before, but it has usually happened later in the spring.
“It’s just a few years ago we lost a crop to it,” Martin said. “We had a nice warm stretch at the end of April, early May and the bloom started to happen, and then we had a cold snap and it was just absolutely the wrong timing for what we wanted to see happen, and we probably lost 75 percent of the crop.”
A strong snowpack can also be beneficial for Saskatoon berries. The way the orchards are set up, though, can help when there is even a slightly below-average snowfall for the year.
“One of the things that happens when you grow in an orchard environment, you’ve got row after row after row, so it becomes like snow fencing,” said Martin. “We’ve had a lot of snow build up between the rows in the last two years, and that augured very well for our spring growth.”