The recent rain is helping some Central Alberta farmers, but can’t transform their stunted crops into a bumper harvest, says an agriculture specialist.
“It will help with the yield that’s there,” but the potential is still pretty much below average, said Mark Cutts, a crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s Ag Info Centre.
Cutts said most Red Deer-area crops are undersized, reflecting the drought and frost conditions of “a tough spring and early summer.” Early July rainfall of four to 10 cm in areas west of Stettler will help some of these stunted crops to mature — particularly canola, which is about to flower.
But Cutts still expects farmers will have lower-than-usual yields at harvest time, when other difficulties could surface.
Many producers will be challenged by having two crops to bring in.
Some seeds started germinating in early June, said Cutts, while others didn’t have the moisture needed for germination until this month.
If the two uneven crops are interspersed in the same area, he predicts some farmers will need advice at the end of August about how to harvest the older crop, while giving the less-mature crop a few more weeks in the ground.
The other problem is getting the second crop to mature before it’s damaged by frost, said Cutts.
Despite the recent rainfall, he believes prospects are still bleak for farmers east of Stettler, who were most affected by spring drought and may have no crops left to salvage. It is possible that some rain in east-Central Alberta could help turn hay into a palatable pasture for livestock, however.
“It depends how much there was.”
Cutts hopes periodic rainfall continues throughout the rest of the month to give the moisture-starved soil a chance to replenish.
The forecast for next week, so far, looks favourable for farmers, with cooler temperatures and rain expected on Monday and Tuesday.