Last week’s welcome burst of warm weather was taken advantage of by area farmers.
The percentage of major crops seeded completed jumped 21 per cent over the previous week in the latest crop report, which covered the period up to May 11.
Thirty-two per cent of acres were seeded at last count, compared with the five-year average of 27 per cent and ahead of the 25 per cent of acres seeded at the same time last year.
“It’s actually looking pretty good in central Alberta right now,” said Ken Handford, a product development analyst with Agriculture Financial Services Corporation.
“We’re doing OK with regards to the crop that has been seeded.”
Recent rains are expected to further improve oil moisture, which was already quite good in central Alberta. Soil moisture was rated good or excellent on 58 per cent of fields and fair on 32 per cent. About 10 per cent were rated poor, compared with the five-year average of about six per cent.
However, whether the moisture levels remain up to the mark will depend on the weather in the next few weeks.
“It is OK, but everything is relative. It could turn on a dime as you go through the year.”
The relatively decent moisture levels come despite the driest winter in 99 years in Red Deer. Other parts of the province also got very little snow. Edmonton had its second driest winter in 136 years and Fort McMurray its fourth driest in 102 years.
“It’s amazing how well it holds up,” said Handford. “It’s just a reflection of what the moisture conditions were in the fall.
“Once the ground freezes up in the wintertime it doesn’t matter how much snow cover you have there because it doesn’t go in until it starts to melt.”
The recent rains will also be useful to producers.
“The moisture we just had will probably help. I expect you may see the (soil moisture) ratings change when the next crop report comes out on Friday,” he said.
Farmers are also hoping that current high commodity prices continue through the year. Canola has hit a 13-year peak, with prices climbing more than 50 per cent since last year. Corn is up 50 per cent. Soybeans and wheat are also selling at prices not seen for years.
Olds-area farmer Jeff Nielsen said seeding went well for most central Alberta producers.
“I think pretty much most are wrapped up,” said Nielsen. “In my opinion, in most of central Alberta crops got in in good time.
“We had some good conditions for it.”
The recent rain came at a good time for many. Nielsen said he got three-quarters an inch of rain just after finished seeding, which helped put some of the moisture back in the soil that evaporated during the recent warm, windy days.
Current and fall prices are also looking positive.
“Prices are staying strong. There could be a few lucky farmers out there who have canola left in their bins and they’re grinning ear to ear.”
Nielsen said like most farmers he hedged his selling prices, which means missing out on the peaks sometimes.
“Where I’m sitting I’m happy with the prices I priced into and naturally now I’ll wait until the crop progresses more before I do more pricing. You don’t want to sell the whole farm without it in the bin yet.”
Meanwhile, farmers will be keeping a close eye on temperatures. The recent frost warnings have the potential to do some damage to emerging crops, although this early in the season most can bounce back.