Dry conditions threaten yields

Alberta’s mixed bag | Field tours show some areas dry while others are doing well

Rain.

The word was on most farmers’ lips during one leg of a CWB-organized tour that focused on wheat and durum crops from as far north as Kathyrn and as far south as Etzikom in Alberta, and along a winding southern route through Burstall, Leader, Swift Current, Aneroid, Woodrow, Assiniboia, Willows, Briercrest and Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan.

Rain is needed in most areas to aid crop development, especially north of Calgary and south to Stirling, as well as most of Saskatchewan’s southwest.

Nevertheless, crops were holding their own last week and most weren’t showing evident stress despite temperatures hovering around 30 C across the region.

Calculations on crop samples indicate average to above average yields are in the offing.

“A good rain about 10 days ago would have been perfect,” said crop specialist Carrie Butterwick of Foremost, Alta., July 29.

However, durum crops east of Foremost showed the promise of high yields, and Joe Waldner, who farms on a Hutterite colony just west of the town, said he was expecting above average yields in a range of crops, with the possible exception of heat-affected canola.

Farmers near Vulcan, Alta., would likely have agreed with Butterwick’s wish for an earlier rain.

Crop consultant Andre Lacoursiere said the area had received 230 milli-metres of rain since April but that was still substantially less than the Champion region to the south.

He predicted that yields won’t reach last year’s bumper crop levels, but wheat appeared likely to meet the average of 48 bushels per acre.

Moisture conditions improved as the tour moved through southeastern Alberta and toward Swift Current but deteriorated southward before improving again east of Assiniboia.

Variability in crop maturity was evident throughout this leg of the three-pronged tour. Canola ranged from full flower to podding and many fields of spring wheat and durum were still in flower.

A long, frost-free fall will be needed to bring all crops to maturity.

Research analyst Ali Doroudian of international crop trader Nidera, who was on the wheat and durum tour, concluded that Canada won’t have any shortage of durum this year.

“We can make decisions based on price and what we’re going to pay in order to buy durum in the world,” he said.

“We can basically relax, knowing there is supply there.”

Del Dosdall, a Vancouver-based export trader for Parrish and Heimbecker, said his observations from the tour wouldn’t likely affect his trades in the near term, but getting into fields provided insight.

“The one thing, I didn’t realize how dry it would be … but overall, it’s pretty much average. Everybody was talking pretty much an average crop and that’s what we saw,” said Dosdall.

“I really just educated myself on what’s out there this year.”