Alta. harvest promising — as long as the weather holds out

Most areas of the province report more than enough rain, quality may be affected

Crops in the sweet spot between Calgary and Edmonton appear lush and now it’s a matter of co-operative harvest weather.

Showers that brought more than 300 millimetres of rain to the region this season have proven persistent but with no rain in the forecast this week, harvest progress looks promising, said Alberta Agriculture crop specialist Harry Brook.

“There’s not been a lot of progress around here,” he said from his office in Stettler, Alta. “It’s starting and stopping. It’s full ahead slow.”

Pea harvest in the region is 60 to 70 percent complete, he said, but some of the remaining pea crops are flat and will be a challenge to harvest.

Among cereal crops, lush stands coupled with showers and wind caused quite a bit of lodging. Spotty hailstorms also caused varying degrees of damage.

That said, Brook predicts yields will be above average for the region.

“Better than average, but how much better is yet to be seen,” he said.

“The crops should be good yielding because we had close to ideal moisture conditions. Maybe a little too ideal” in terms of rain showers.

“The majority of the areas, we’ve had more than enough rain. It’s time it stopped.”

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Brook said the Donalda area is one exception. It remains dry and could use more rain. However, subsoil moisture throughout the central part of the province is in good shape.

Summer moisture favoured crop diseases, prompting widespread use of fungicides.

“With something like sclerotinia or blackleg, you don’t really know until harvest how bad it was. Definitely clubroot, this was just about as ideal as you could get for the continued distribution of clubroot, and as they keep looking for it, they find more and more of it in canola,” Brook said.

“Leaf diseases in cereals was pretty much rampant. The ascendancy was definitely toward the diseases. Insect wise, I think they all drowned.”

Although crop quantity still appears high, quality is the big question now.

As for hay, showers have kept a small amount of first-cut hay in the field and have also made second-cut hay a challenge to harvest.

Bruce Beattie, reeve of Mountain View County based in Didsbury, Alta., said he’s seen quite a few wet hay crops.

“Yields look excellent. The question is will they get them off,” said Beattie.

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Brook noted there’s a difference between hay condition and hay quality. Even blackened hay can have good nutrition for livestock, so he encouraged farmers to have their hay tested.

Beattie said he has also seen considerable cereal crop lodging in his travels around the county. Hailstorms this summer did some damage, he noted, but that is usual for the region.

“We certainly need a good stretch of nice weather,” he said.

In the Irricana region, Eli Hofer of the Tschetter Hutterite Colony said members are hoping to make harvest progress.

Though it rained Sept. 12, the forecast looked hopeful.

“They’re calling for nice weather this week,” said Hofer. “We’ll start on wheat, get that off first and see what we’re getting.”

He said July hailstorms have likely reduced barley and wheat yields, which he predicted would be 30 to 40 bushels per acre.

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