Prairie crop in good shape

Prairie fields are showing a mix of above-average crops and pastures, along with areas of below-average development so far this year.

But overall, conditions are generally looking good thanks to recent rain, said provincial crop report spokespeople.

“We do have varying stages of development in every field, so that’s causing some issues for us, but overall things are still in relatively good condition,” said Shannon Friesen at Saskatchewan Agriculture.

Anastasia Kubinec from Manitoba Agriculture recently completed her 19th annual family road trip from Winnipeg to Red Deer, where she saw a wide variance of field conditions.

“Crops looked fairly good. They maybe looked a little shorter than they should and a little thinner than we typically see,” she said.

Crops and pastures in a large area between Brandon and Regina look “fabulous,” she said.

“They definitely had received some rain there and maybe in some areas there is maybe a bit too much.”

She said the thinning crops could be a sign that plants struggled with lack of moisture during the seedling stage, but it now appears that many crops are filling in nicely.

She saw crop and pasture conditions steadily decline north of Regina with one of the driest pockets she observed in the Outlook, Sask., to Hanna, Alta., areas.

“Pastures are quite brown and quite short. Our livestock specialists here have seen quite a few water samples coming in for quality,” said Kaeley Kindrachuk, crop extension specialist with Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Agriculture in Outlook.

Thanks to irrigation, Anthony Eliason, who farms near Outlook, has been pouring the water on his wheat and canola since May.

While the driest pockets in that area received about 20 millimetres of rain during the Canada Day weekend, Eliason said most of his dryland crops will not benefit. The crop received only about 40 mm since April 1.

“For the early seeded stuff that’s already headed out a little bit, it will be too little, too late. It’ll help fill what’s there, but it’s already done flowering.”

Eliason said many producers in the Outlook area are looking further afield for hay and grass.

“Guys are scrambling to find ditches that they can cut. We’ve had a couple approach us about ditches and little waterways and whether there’s grass that they can go in there and cut,” he said.

“Everything we could possibly help with is spoken for this year.”

In Saskatchewan and Alberta, recent rain has contributed to an overall increase in surface soil moisture, which is rated as good or better. However, sub-surface soil moisture levels remain low.

“Now that we’re heading into our hotter months, we are hopeful that even though the moisture is only down a couple of inches in some areas, that the crop will still be able to efficiently use that. And of course, that we do get a timely rain again, but it’s hard to say,” said Friesen.

As well, hailstorms have left their marks in several areas of Alberta and Manitoba.

Arnold Hansen, a cattle farmer near Viking, Alta., said hail in that area has damaged 80 percent or more of some crops.

“And the hay is nothing to brag about this year compared to last year, which was a bumper crop…. This year, we just missed all the rain, it seems like,” he said.

A week-long heat wave blanketed much of the Prairies last week, which could help give many crops and pastures an added boost, but it could also finish others.

“That’s going make stuff jump. But if we don’t get more rain, it’s just going to go backwards again at the end of the week,” said Eliason.

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