Summertime peace in the Peace River farming region is about to be disrupted as early pea harvest progresses and widespread canola swathing is about to begin.
In general, crops look to be in good shape throughout the region and few disease, insect and fungal problems have been reported.
Average to above-average crops are anticipated, a welcome prognosis given dry conditions suffered last year.
“Up in the Peace country things are looking really positive,” said Greg Sears, who farms near Sexsmith, Alta., north of Grande Prairie.
“There’s certainly pockets where we’ve had too much moisture and a few small pockets where there hasn’t been enough moisture, but I think generally we’re looking forward to a really good crop. I think there’s definitely potential for a bumper crop in a lot of areas.”
Sears said early barley crops and some of the peas have been harvested but he hasn’t heard reports on yield. Canola swathing had yet to begin in his region as of Aug. 15.
There was little disease pressure on crops this year, but cutworms on canola, wireworms on cereals and the ever-present flea beetles had some effect.
Sears said frequent showers in June and July were a welcome respite from recent years of wondering when rain would come.
“I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’re going to have a good harvest and so far the weather is looking pretty good for the next couple weeks, so that will sure help things.”
In the Fairview region, Kelly McIntyre said farmers are optimistic about the coming crop yield.
“The mood is good,” he said Aug. 15. “I think overall, producers are pretty satisfied with the way things look.”
A heavy wheat crop has led to some lodging, and the canola also looks promising.
“We had pretty consistent rain showers throughout the summer. Some areas are a little bit drier than others and we’ve seen a little bit of drowning in some areas, so that would be probably the only limiting factor on yield.”
He said areas near Rycroft and Spirit River got more rain than Fairview, so crop drowning was probably more of an issue there.
Pea harvest has begun in the Fairview region with early reports of 50 bushels per acre or better. Canola swathing is likely to start this week, said McIntyre.
Insect issues were limited during most of the season. Lygus bugs are showing up now but are too late to inflict much damage. During the dry spring, farmers were worried about potential grasshopper problems but those did not materialize.
As for diseases, “I’m seeing sclerotinia in lots of fields,” said McIntyre, “but I don’t think it’s going to be a significant yield loss.”
At Wanham, Alta., Dale Murphy said the region has had 280 to 300 millimetres of rain. About 150 mm is more typical of crop-season rainfall.
He grows canola, wheat and oats.
“They’re all looking pretty good, from what I can see in our particular area,” he said about crop yields. “It looks bumper, but sometimes it comes off straw.”
Like McIntyre, Murphy said sclerotinia has started to appear in canola, though it doesn’t yet look severe.
Harvest hadn’t begun in the Wanham region as of Aug. 15 but Murphy said the peas are very close to ready.
Farther north in the La Crete region, Andrew Giesbrecht said two weeks of 27 to 30 C temperatures have quickly ripened crops and harvest has begun early despite the usual planting dates.
“We are probably two weeks ahead of schedule. Pea harvest is well under way. Everything is desiccated that was going to be desiccated,” said Giesbrecht. “We had good moisture this spring. We had good timely rains for about the first half of the summer. It was a bit spotty but overall good.”
However, there has been no significant rainfall since early July.
The first pea and barley crops in the region were harvested in the second week of August and wheat harvest was expected to start this week. Canola swathing will also get underway this week, Giesbrecht said.
Dry conditions are starting to be a concern because canola pods are beginning to shrivel.
“We could actually use two or three inches of rain so it would green up…. We’re going to have some shrinkage loss on the canola.”