Planning Farming Practices Ahead of Dry Conditions

For farmers, the start to a new crop year begins much before all the equipment hits the fields in the spring. To start off the new crop year, you must review the past years operations, and make a crop plan based on your past success and the commodity market. Planning consists of choosing which practices to utilize, what crops to grow, what inputs to use and many more. These decisions are usually made based on a prediction of what the growing conditions are going to be like for the upcoming year. Across the Canadian Prairies, specifically Saskatchewan, large areas have seen below average precipitation in the past four years. Some years receiving less than half the average rainfall, results in extremely dry conditions. Fortunately, there are many ways to adapt and change farming practices to ensure you will remain productive during dry conditions. Tools such as fertilizing, choosing crops to grow, and in-crop control can all be altered based on the condition’s farmers are faced with.


When creating a fertilizer plan, you need to keep in mind that there are potential losses that can take place throughout the season. There is risk of fertilizer loss from a seedbed that’s lacking moisture, as well as increased risk if you get a precipitation event soon after seeding. Losses of nitrogen (N) can be minimized by adding stabilizers on either their dry or liquid fertilizers. For nitrogen, stabilizers prevent the enzyme urease from converting urea into ammonia gas. If there is not adequate available soil moisture at seeding, you may want to back off the nitrogen you put down. Should environmental conditions favor an increased yield goal, you can top up your nitrogen in season. If you get adequate moisture shortly after seeding, early applications such as broadcasting, dribble banding, and foliar nutrition (such as melted urea) would be an option to add to your herbicides. There are also fertilizers that are more plant available, such as orthophosphates and zinc sulphates. Incorporating these forms of fertilizers have shown very effective results in prairie soils under dry conditions.

Choosing which crops to grow

When growing a crop in dry conditions, it is very beneficial to get your soil tested to determine exactly what type of soil your fields have. Heavier soils with more clay particles have higher water and nutrient holding capacity then lighter soils with a silty/sandy texture. A representative soil test would help you analyze the makeup of your soil and determine the level of available nutrients your soil has. The next key factor is finding out how deep down the moisture is, and try to figure out the ideal depth to place the seed. During dry conditions, there will be an advantage to seeding cereals and pulses a bit deeper than normal to find moisture. Cereals are ideally seeded 1-2 inches deep and pulses 1-3 inches deep. Crops seeded closer to the surface will have more trouble germinating in dry conditions due to lack of moisture. Canola and other oilseeds are optimally seeded at 0.5-1 inches deep.

Another way to manage dry conditions will be to choose crops that are more drought tolerant. Try to choose crops that have lower daily moisture requirements as a way of coping with periods of inadequate moisture. These crops would be mostly cereals and pulses in our area. Cereals like barley have drought-tolerant traits in them and have lower daily water use than most other crops. Pulses, especially lentils, are very drought tolerant. They thrive in dryer conditions, as their daily water use is very low. The moisture requirements of common crops are as follows: cereals (380-430mm), peas (300-370mm), wheat (420-480mm), canola (400-480mm), and corn (580-650mm). Since pulses are an early maturing crop, they have the best chance at early germination, increasing the chance of having pollination completed before the driest part of the season.

In-Crop Control

Dry conditions, as have been seen in the last few years, bring different challenges to overcome when it comes time for in-crop control. Certain strains of insects are starting to become an increasing problem again as drier conditions persist. These pests can greatly impact yield. Insects such as grasshoppers, flea beetles, and cutworms can create detrimental losses to crops when it is dry. When plants are not able to grow fast enough, they struggle to compete with the economic threshold of the insect in the field. Dry conditions also present new or challenging weeds that may require different sources of control efforts. Kochia, thistle, and dandelions all seem to show up when conditions are drier. These weeds compete with the crop for water and nutrients. To control arising insect and weed issues when it’s dry, it may be beneficial to consider a enhanced control herbicide, such as a residual control herbicide. There are residual herbicides that are exceptionally good on kochia. It may also mean you might have to plan to spray an insecticide in season for grasshoppers in your cereals or flea beetles in your canola. These challenges can be watched carefully throughout the growing season by an agronomist.

Plan Ahead

Heading into the 2021 crop year, the potential looks very promising, amid the dry conditions. It will be a year of planning to adapt the farming practices that you can use during dry conditions, such as fertilizing, choosing which crops to grow, and in-crop control.

The commodity markets have also been on the rise for some time and are looking very strong with many markets being bullish. Now it’s time to start planning.

For further information, please contact the local SynergyAG representative in your area!

Variable Rate Soil & Fertilizer

Would you treat these soils the same? You will probably answer no to that question, but if you are not applying variable-rate technology (VRT) on your farm, you ARE treating those soils the same. These soils came from a field with relatively flat topography and did not show a large amount of variability to the naked eye. The objective of variable-rate technology is to better distribute and customize inputs to maximize productivity.

Why Is VRT Important?

A large amount of soil on the Prairies has more than enough variability to warrant investing in variable-rate technology. Variable soils will often show variation in plant-available nitrogen (NO3-N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulfur (SO4-S). The most crucial step in achieving success with a variable rate is finding/creating a representative map of the land you wish to variable-rate.

How Does VRT Work?

VR maps will break the field into multiple zones based on things such as topography, elevation, and electrical conductivity. Hilltops, mid-slopes, and depressions will be treated independently from each other. This allows you to pinpoint the strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities of each soil type. Having a detailed map to base soil sampling will give you a much more dependable soil test result. The overall goal of a variable rate fertilizer and seed prescription is to have your crop come in nice and even to reduce complications at harvest due to uneven crop stage.

How Is VRT Used?

Variable-rate maps can be used for multiple applications. Some of these examples include:

  • Seed and fertilizer applications with a drill
  • Fertilizer applications that are only needed in specific zones (applying Edge to zones with high Kochia populations)
  • Fungicide applications in the highest producing zones in the field

SynergyAG works closely with CropPro and SWAT Maps to create top of the line variable-rate maps for our customers. To learn more about VRT on your land, or start utilizing it on your farm, contact your local SynergyAG rep!

Treating Your Fertilizer

As we transition into the winter months, we move away from fieldwork and into the planning stages for next year’s growing season. With crop rotation and soil sample results in mind, a fertility plan can be formed. Decisions must be made such as what type of fertilizer you will use, how much of each product you will need to achieve your desired lbs/ac, and how you would like to apply the fertilizer and when. One should always be thinking of the 4R’s: Right Fertilizer source at the Right rate at the Right time and in the Right place. 

All fertilizers are equally important, and one should not be prioritized over any others however macronutrients such as NPK&S are required in greater quantities and environmental losses are less tolerated by the crop – especially Nitrogen and Phosphorus. 


Nitrogen is a vital nutrient because it is a major component of chlorophyll: a major component of photosynthesis.  Nitrogen also produces amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins that are essential to all plant processes. 

There are a few different forms of nitrogen that are commonly used throughout the prairies. The first being anhydrous ammonia in a gaseous form (NH3), the second being a liquid form (NH4), and the third being a dry formulation such as Urea (NH2). Nitrogen must be transformed from its many different forms into a plant-available form of NH4 through nitrification. These changes are caused by exposure to oxygen and water. 

Treating Nitrogen

Nitrogen moves around in the environment readily and is transformed and lost very easily, it is important to use proper practices to ensure your crop is getting the nitrogen it needs for the growing season. Whether you are broadcasting, top dressing, or putting your nitrogen in a row it is a good idea to treat your nitrogen. There are different options for Nitrogen treatments and stabilizers that work in different ways like inhibiting enzymes and keeping nitrogen in its immobile form for longer. By treating your nitrogen, you are ensuring that 10% more nitrogen will be available to the plant throughout the growing season, increasing your overall Nitrogen efficiency. So, no matter what method of Nitrogen application you are using, treating it will provide long-lasting protection from volatilization and leaching. 


Plants need Phosphorus for pretty much all normal processes, helping the plant mature in a timely fashion, photosynthesis and many other functions. Phosphorus levels are key for the plant to be able to complete all stages of the production cycle. Phosphorus is very abundant in our prairie soils but 50-75% of the P is in an inorganic, non-plant available form. The other 25-50% is organic P, this P is transformed into plant available P through processes such as mineralization and immobilization. These processes occur in your soils naturally, but it does not supply enough P necessary for your crop. 

Treating your Phosphorus

Unlike Nitrogen, Phosphorus is not lost due to volatilization but by being fixated in the soil by other cations or (tied up). This fixation is caused by elements such as calcium, aluminum, iron which are positively charged and attract the negatively charged phosphorus ions. Phosphorus treatments work by reacting with these cations, in turn protecting the phosphorus from fixation. By treating your phosphorus, it protects your fertilizer from being fixated in the soil and allows your fertilizer to be almost 50% more plant available, ensuring your phosphorus is available for the plant when it needs it most.

At Synergy AG we want your fertilizer applications to be as efficient as possible. If you want to learn more about fertilizer treatment and your options, contact your local Synergy AG representative or agronomist today!