Crop concern shifts to frost

Better late than never.

Better late than never.

That’s Mark Cutts’ assessment of the recent rain that’s fallen on Central Alberta’s parched soil.

“I don’t think there’s any crop that’s going to mind the moisture,” said Cutts, a crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s Ag Info Centre in Stettler.

With cereal crops headed out and canola crops done flowering, the precipitation should improve the plumpness of developing seeds, he said. Thirsty pea crops should also benefit.

“Farmers will find out when they get into those fields what the yields are like. Hopefully they’re pleasantly surprised.”

The rainfall should be sufficient to sustain most fields through the growing season, said Cutts.

Now the concern shifts from drought to frost, with many crops well behind their normal pace of growth due to the cool, dry spring.

“We could use some warm, sunny days to help these crops finish up the season.”

Regardless of the weather between now and harvest, the adverse growing conditions earlier in the year will likely mean mediocre yields throughout the region.

“Definitely less than last year, and in the areas where the crops are looking pretty good — which is probably Hwy 2 west — yields may be average.”

The situation is worst further east, with many crops there already written off.

But overall, things would have been much worse had the recent rains not come when they did.

“If producers could come off with a yield close to average, I think they’d probably take that without too much complaint at the end of the year,” said Cutts.

Forage crops in dry areas might still benefit from the rainfall, he added. That would give farmers improved hay production and better grazing options later in the year.

An adverse consequence of the weekend storms was the hail they brought with them.

Agriculture Financial Services Corp. reported on Wednesday that hailstorms Saturday and Sunday had resulted in approximately 1,500 insurance claims related to more than a million acres of damaged crops. These included more than 200 claims covering some 58,000 acres in Central Alberta.

The impact was worst in Southern Alberta, where Sunday’s hail cut a swath from west of Olds to the Milk River area.

Cutts confirmed that crops are particularly vulnerable to hail at this stage of development. But otherwise, he doesn’t think the violent weekend weather had too great an impact.

Some crops have lodged, he confirmed.

“If it’s for silage it’s not such a big thing, but if you’re taking it to grain it becomes a bit of a harvest management issue,” said Cutts of the lodged crops.

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