After an a-typical summer, many Central Alberta farmers are in the midst of an early harvest — and are reaping surprisingly average yields.
While June through to early September 2017 was far drier and hotter than usual for Central Alberta and many crops did not get the water they ideally needed, yields in the Red Deer area are only slightly below — or at 96 per cent — of average, according to the latest Alberta Agriculture Crop Report.
Mark Cutts, a crop specialist for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, said the jury’s still out on the overall quality of these crops. But he noted some dryness and heat aren’t necessarily terrible — for wheat, in particular. “The protein in wheat is higher (in drier years), so the price tends to be higher.”
The most unusual aspect of this growing season is the fast rate at which crops matured in the more intense heat. “It’s moving along much more quickly,” said Cutts, who added most Central Alberta farmers are well into their harvest.
Already, 58 per cent of crops in the central region were collected, compared to only 11 per cent this time in 2016, and 22 per cent according to Alberta’s five-year average.
Provincially, nearly 86 per cent of dry peas, 55 per cent of barely, 50 per cent of spring wheat, 28 per cent of canola, and 22 per cent of oats are in the bin.
With the harvest well underway, a deluge of precipitation is not welcome. Cutts noted that Environment Canada is predicting rain in the Red Deer area for much of next week. He hopes it doesn’t continue for the rest of the month, saying “some rain is OK, but hopefully it won’t be a lot more,” as muddy soil will hamper field work.
Pastures in the central area were the hardest hit by this summer’s unusual weather, with nearly 60 per cent of growth conditions rated ‘poor,’ 30 per cent considered ‘fair’ and only 10 per cent ‘good.’
Canadian farmers got positive news Friday when the federal government announced a $4.4 million investment to help producers stay on the cutting edge of innovation, expand markets and manage business risk. As part of this funding, Ottawa committed $2.2 million to new projects to support the cattle industry in Alberta and across the country.