A farmer pulls machinery over a field just west of Joffre, Ab. Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

A farmer pulls machinery over a field just west of Joffre, Ab. Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Farmers welcome warm weather

May warm temperatures good for farmers looking to get seeding started

Central Alberta farmers will welcome the upcoming heat wave.

Some more of the area’s notorious spring winds would also help.

A chilly spring has farmers impatiently waiting for the ground to dry out and warm up so seeding can get underway.

“Things are slow,” said Neil Whatley, from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s Ag-Info Centre in Stettler.

“The weather has been damp and cool. That slowed up seeding quite considerably this year.”

The forecast this week is looking good. Temperatures are expected to rise each day, hitting 26 C on Friday.

The optimum soil temperature for seeding is around 10 C, said Whatley.

“It’s good to have it at 10 C. But many growers get going at 5 C to 10 C.

“We haven’t seen temperatures like that,” he said.

Planting at lower soil temperatures leads to more root diseases.

“It definitely won’t germinate very quickly or grow very quickly, so it just sits there and that allows seed-borne fungal microorganisms to begin to fester on the seeds.”

Red Deer County agricultural manager Art Preachuk said his county is not too far behind but all will welcome some warmer temperatures.

“I think we’re right on course here if we some weather for the next few weeks and everybody gets it done by the middle of the month. By the long weekend would be great,” said Preachuk.

The soil has been cool for germination so far but getting seeding done is the first concern.

“First you get (seed) in the ground. Then you worry about it warming up.”

Some Central Alberta farmers are also dealing with crops that couldn’t be harvested last fall because of the terrible weather.

Fortunately, this area is in better shape than others.

“It’s worse as you go north into the St. Paul area, northeast and northwest into the Barrhead, Westlock and up in the Peace district,” said Whatley.

Preachuk said probably only about 10 per cent of the acres in Red Deer County remain unharvested.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, but some farmers still have 50 per cent or more unharvested acres that need to be cleaned up ahead of seeding.

The Alberta Financial Services Corporation estimated last week there were 960,000 insured crop acres unharvested from last year in the province.