Farmers brace for what might be another wet and problematic harvest this year

Jerome Isaac's wheat crop in Debolt, Alta., is covered in snow.  |  Jerome Isaac photo

Worries over another difficult harvest were running high in northern Alberta today as snow blanketed some fields in the region.

Environment Canada has forecasted that some parts of the province could see 10 to 15 centimetres of snow. Many farmers have already took to social media to post photos of buried crops under white fields.

“I was swathing canola last night when it started to snow,” said Jerome Isaac, who farms near Debolt, Alta. “Because it hasn’t rained much, I thought maybe we could get away with it. But when I woke up this morning, we got a good dump.”

Issac said he likely experienced about 12 to 16 cm of snow. While he has only gotten about five percent of harvest complete, he’s hoping his crops will make it through. He said none of them have totally flattened, but he expects some lodging.

“There’s definitely a concern of lost grade and lost value, but there’s not a lot a guy can do about it,” he said. “We’ll just make the best of it when we get the chance.”

Snow covers machinery and fields on Jerome Isaac's farm near Debolt, Alta. | Jerome Isaac photo

Up north in the La Crete, Alta. area, Joe Peters also saw some snow. He said about seven to 10 centimetres fell yesterday. He still has about 75 percent left of the crop to harvest.

“I’ve had better days,” he said. “A lot of guys are still waiting to get started. It’s not really fun as far as how it has affected things.”

While it’s too early to say how his crops will fare, he said he expects his malt barley to be downgraded and that his organic peas received the worst damage.

He said he still expects his wheat to remain at the same grade but won’t know for certain until it gets in the bin.

“I’ve never really dealt with this before,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be a more expensive harvest. Hopefully we get everything off.”

Climate specialists are watching the precipitation closely.

Twelve to 16 cm of snow fell on Jerome Isaac's farm near Debolt, Alta. | Jerome Isaac photo

Depending on how it shakes out, it could either further delay harvest or help crops recharge from the dry summer, said Patrick Cherneski, manager of the National Agroclimate Information Service with Agriculture Canada.

In Debolt, Isaac said he suspects that the smoke from the lengthy wildfires in British Columbia this summer had played a role in delaying his harvest this year. The smoke would have impeded sunlight, therefore delaying maturation.

It’s the third year in a row in which some farmers are dealing with a wet harvest. For the past two years, wet conditions and snow around this time of year have been the main culprits for delays.

Despite the challenges, both Issac and Peters say it could be much worse.

“You just got to put your head down and work hard,” Peters said. “There are bigger problems in the world than some flat crops. We have it pretty good. We just have to stay positive and keep going.”

If there are any farmers who are feeling discouraged, Isaac said they should reach out to others who have been in situations like this before.

“This definitely does take an emotional toll,” he said. “Talk to other farmers who have survived it and get encouragement. We want to make sure nobody gets too discouraged.”


About the author


Stories from our other publications