Heat wave boosts Alberta irrigated crops

Heat wave boosts Alberta irrigated crops

Corn loves heat. Sugar beets like heat. And potatoes are OK with it too, so long as the sprinklers keep running.

That means a recent spate of hot weather in southern Alberta has been a boon for irrigated row crops, which are in good condition and in better shape than this time last year.

“If there’s anything that likes heat, it’s corn,” said Alberta Corn Growers Association president David Jensen.

The Taber area grower said this is an average year after two years of cool, wet weather that delayed crop development. He expects fresh corn to be available locally by the August long weekend.

There are 600 acres of fresh corn growing within the Municipal District of Taber and another 400 acres further east, toward Medicine Hat and Redcliff, said Jensen.

However, silage corn is also responding to recent heat, and good yields are anticipated. No figures are available on how many acres are planted to silage corn, though they would exceed acres grown for the fresh market.

Edzo Kok, executive director of Potato Growers of Alberta, said his members are happy with conditions.

“We’ve had a couple tough years when some major weather events have affected us, but this year it’s so far, so good,” he said.

“The crop went into the ground early and it’s probably ahead of normal. We’re hoping things continue as they have and if they do, we’ll have a very good crop.”

Spotty hail and tornado activity earlier this season affected some growers, but damage will not affect the overall crop, Kok said.

Growers are watching for signs of late blight because recent growing conditions could favour disease development.

“Everybody’s doing their due diligence and making sure they’re protecting the crop,” he said.

“Conditions are probably fairly conducive to it right now, but if everybody does what they’re supposed to, I think we’ll be OK.”

Alberta farmers planted 55,340 acres of potatoes this year, 2,500 more than last year. This will be the largest processing potato acreage ever, Kok said in his recent report to growers.

Sugar beets are also thriving in the heat. Gerald Third, executive director of the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers Association, said the crop recovered well from earlier setbacks from frost and hail.

Plants are healthy and the only fly in the ointment is volunteer canola control in sugar beet fields.

“There’s still two months yet to get them in the bin, but so far it’s very good,” said Third. “If everything goes the way it should, we should be pulling beets out of the ground at the end of September.”

Sugar beet growers planted 33,000 acres in southern Alberta this year, all of them contracted to Lantic Sugar.

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