Crops in good shape, but outlook not ‘all sweetness and light’

Early seeding followed by a lot of sunshine and rain is making for some nice growing conditions for Central Alberta crops.

Early seeding followed by a lot of sunshine and rain is making for some nice growing conditions for Central Alberta crops.

“They are very good, but it’s not all sweetness and light,” said Harry Brook, an Alberta Agriculture crops specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre in Stettler.

Brook took an extensive drive through parts of Alberta earlier in the week looking at crops, and said cereals are looking good. “There’s been a lot of rain but in some areas there’s been too much rain.”

In some fields that have heavy soils and not enough elevation for draining, crops have been drowned out in low areas. Farmers have responded by re-seeding, which runs the risk of frost at the end of the growing season.

“The winners of the crop lottery as far as how as they look would be the cereals,” said Brook. These would include crops like wheat, barley and oats.

Some canola fields are not looking so great. Brook said he saw areas where half the field has been eaten by cutworms. “I don’t think we’re going to see the high yield in canola.”

“I saw some really nice canola crops but it wasn’t the rule.” Cutworms became a bigger problem this year because the winter was so warm.

It’s too early to predict whether farmers will see a bumper crop. “It’s not in the bin yet.” But around Red Deer it looks really good, Brook said. “I’ve seen some awesome pea crops around Stettler too.”

Unfortunately the warm moist conditions are ideal for disease and the main question he is getting right now from farmers is should they spray for fungicide.

If it stops raining this week and dries up it’s really not an issue, he said.

“Our crops are probably a week to two weeks ahead of normal. … In some peas we may see harvesting occur as early as the second week of August, which is really early. You might even see some of the really early cereal crops being harvested too.”

Growers are having a hard time getting hay out because the fields are so wet, he said. Last year it was so dry farmers were getting maybe a quarter of a bale of hay an acre so the price of hay was high. This year they are probably getting two bales an acre and the price has dropped.

Last year people were paying up to $120 a bale. Prior to that it was between $36 and $50 a bale.

“If they can get this hay crop off, there’s enough moisture they could get a really good second crop,” Brook said.

barr@bprda.wpengine.com