The Western Producer – In June, hay production on the Prairies was about 50 per cent of normal.
That production is now closer to normal, thanks to 50 to 150 millimetres of rain across most of Western Canada in late June and early July.
The 50 per cent number comes from the Agro climate Impact Reporter (AIR), part of Agriculture Canada’s Drought Watch service.
About 600 producers participate in the AIR program in Western Canada. They fill out an online survey during the growing season and share information about the impact of droughts and extreme weather on their farm operation.
“Citizen scientists provide a unique perspective from the ground that cannot be fully captured by scientists,” Ag Canada said in a document promoting the AIR program.
“For example, while technology can be used to visualize the extent of a flooding event, it cannot describe the effects of flooding in a region.”
Agriculture Canada uses the survey responses to generate maps, which illustrate how extreme weather is affecting farm production.
For instance, there’s a map on the DroughtWatch website showing how weather in June was affecting pasture and rangeland conditions.
The AIR maps help scientists and policy makers understand climate extremes and the consequences for Canada’s farm economy.
One example is the Livestock Tax Deferral provision, which supports livestock producers in times of exceptional drought or excess moisture.
While the data is useful, more volunteers are needed across the country to make the tool more robust and more reliable.
In particular, Agriculture Canada would like to expand the program to Eastern Canada, so it needs AIR participants in Ontario, Quebec and other provinces.
Visit the Agriculture Canada website for more information on becoming a volunteer reporter and citizen scientist.