Farmers feeling good about crops

With nearly half of the 2011 crop in the bin and Environment Canada projecting sunny skies for much of the next week, Central Alberta farmers have reason to be upbeat.

Grant Mills watches canola loading into a waiting truck in a Bodco Farms’ field near Springvale Heights east of the city Monday. Mills was helping his son-in-law Brad Bodwell get the crop in. Bodwell said he’s glad to have harvest more than half done with just canola left after taking off his wheat and barley already. Alberta Agricultural and Rural Development reports harvest is proceeding well with yields estimated to be of good quality and average to above average.

Grant Mills watches canola loading into a waiting truck in a Bodco Farms’ field near Springvale Heights east of the city Monday. Mills was helping his son-in-law Brad Bodwell get the crop in. Bodwell said he’s glad to have harvest more than half done with just canola left after taking off his wheat and barley already. Alberta Agricultural and Rural Development reports harvest is proceeding well with yields estimated to be of good quality and average to above average.

With nearly half of the 2011 crop in the bin and Environment Canada projecting sunny skies for much of the next week, Central Alberta farmers have reason to be upbeat.

James Wright, a risk analyst with Agriculture Financial Services Corporation in Lacombe, listed three other positives that might even put a smile on their faces.

“They’ve got good yields, they’ve got good quality and on top of that they’ve got good prices,” he said, noting that it’s rare for farmers to see such a convergence of desirable circumstances.

“When you can put all three of them together, that’s money jingling in your pocket.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Wright was compiling the bi-weekly crop report for AFSC and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. His numbers suggested that harvest across Central Alberta was about 45 per cent complete, with another 30 per cent of crops lying in swaths.

But, pointed out Wright, progress varies significantly from the east, where harvest is nearly complete; to the west, where combining is only 20 to 25 per cent done. He explained that cool, damp weather in the first half of the growing season delayed crop development west of Hwy 2.

Averaging the harvest numbers across Central Alberta, Wright calculated barley at 42 per cent, spring wheat at 43 per cent and canola at 46 per cent. Farmers here are behind their counterparts in Southern Alberta but well ahead of those to the north.

“They’re only about 10 per cent harvested up in the Peace. They’ve been really cool and wet all summer.”

Most of those green crops in Northern Alberta have so far escaped a killing frost. Meanwhile, in some parts of east-Central Alberta the thermometer dipped well below zero a couple weeks ago.

Fortunately, said Wright, hot weather in late August and early September helped crops advance to a less vulnerable state.

“That just sped things up by approximately four or five days and got it to maturity.”

Neil Whatley, a crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s Ag-Info Centre in Stettler, confirmed that harvesting east of him is at a very advanced point, relative to fields in the west.

He said the hard frost earlier this month, which covered an area from Castor to Killam, left some canola with green seeds.

“Other than that, I think the canola’s doing OK too.”

Whatley said he wasn’t aware of any severe frost in Red Deer area.

Crop quality in Central Alberta is generally above average, he said.

“Ergot is a bit of a problem for quality with some of the cereals, but other than that it’s coming off pretty good.”

The Canadian Wheat Board said Monday that the Canadian Grain Commission has a low tolerances for ergot.

“The CWB is monitoring ergot levels in harvested wheat to determine whether a management program will be possible,” it said, adding that farmers who are concerned about ergot might want to segregate the wheat harvested around the perimeter of a field to avoid a downgrading of the entire crop.

Wright said producers should enjoy a good return when they finally haul their 2011 harvest to market.

“Prices are still strong and should remain fairly good when you look at historical values.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com