Volunteer farmers work to harvest wheat during the annual Central Alberta Foodgrains Bank Project Harvest Day at a field just east of Lacombe. (Advocate file photo)

Driest summer since 2003 in Red Deer, Central Alberta

Officials are anticipating an average to below-average harvest as Central Alberta experiences the driest summer since 2003.

Harry Brook, Alberta Agriculture crop specialist, said the crop quality should be high despite the lower than usual quantity of harvested crops.

“The beauty of these kinds of conditions with harvest is you get a rapid dry down,” said Brook. “You can get some very good quality with wheat because if you get no rain on it, you can get very nice colour.”

One of wheat’s grading factors is its colour.

Kirk Torneby, Environment Canada meteorologist, said an early June rain skewed the rain totals for the month and the summer. So far this summer, there have been 168.4 mm of rain, which is well under the 30-year average of 260 mm.

“The story of the summer has been hot and dry,” said Torneby. “It’s been a building dryness due to a lack of precipitation through July and August.”

While June was slightly above average in terms of wet weather, 95 mm compared to an 89.3 mm average, July and August were especially dry. In July, 53.8 mm fell, much less than the 94.4 mm average and in August 19 mm of rain fell, compared to a 71.6 mm average.

“It was the ninth driest August on record.”

Brook said how the weather impacted producers largely depended on soil type and what cloud they were under.

“There are people who have average and above-average crops,” said Brook. “But the majority are probably average to below-average.

“The upside is, with the weather we’ve had, it’s really pushing crops towards maturity. Especially the later seeded crops.”

He noted there was significant late seeding of canola because of wet fields.

“I don’t think we’re going to have a bumper crop year,” said Brook. “There will be spots with really good yields because they got rain at the right time.

“It’s going to be a missed bag.”

It’s a change from last year’s harvest when it rained throughout the fall months and it created a crop quality issue.

The dry weather has led to Red Deer County to declare a fire ban on all outdoor fires including those issued with burn permits.

mcrawford@reddeeradvocate.com

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