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Days of the ‘dustbowl:’ Land will take time to recover

Days of the ‘dustbowl:’ Land will take time to recover

Sask. wildfires could have long-term impacts on soil and crops

By Kate Ayers

Staff Reporter

The fires in southwestern Saskatchewan are out but their impacts on the land could be seen for years.

Last month, wildfires tore through Saskatchewan, scorching 34,000 hectares of land. The fire was pushed along by 130 kilometre-per-hour winds, according to Friday’s CBC News article.

Russell Job is a Burstall, Sask. grain producer affected by the fires. Although he lost part of his canola acreage and storage bins filled with grain, Job is more concerned about the damage to the land.

Farmers have cared for the land for years. Before the fire, there was enough stubble in the soil to reduce erosion. Now, the land is bare, leaving the soil more susceptible to erosion.

“It took all that (roughage) away, plus a whole lot of nutrients that … were there and all stored up,” Job said to CBC.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture said that it is still too early to determine what type of condition fire-ravaged land will be in for 2018. Recovery will be dependent upon the amount of winter and spring moisture.

“Replacing lost soil organic matter by practicing zero-tillage could take several years, depending on how much of the topsoil has eroded. Cereal crops can provide standing stubble and residue cover,” the Ministry said in an email to today.

The ability of cereal crops to reduce soil erosion is why Job will likely plant durum wheat next year.

The wheat will replace more profitable crops like peas and canola.

“You’re hurting your bottom line. You’re doing what’s right for the land, but you’re not going to make as much money (farming) this way,” Job said.

Updated on November 7, 2017


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