Agriculture equipment is sitting idle in fields as farmers wait for the latest harbinger of winter to pass.
Harvest is lagging far beyond the five-year average in Alberta, with only about one-third of crops off the field as of Oct. 1. Usually at this time of year, harvest is about half complete.
In central Alberta, about 24 per cent of major crops were harvested, compared with 34 per cent for the province overall.
Last year at this time, 41 per cent of central Alberta crops had been harvested, against a provincial average of 33 per cent.
“Producers are looking for an extended period of sunny, warm and windy weather to get the equipment moving again,” says the Alberta Crop Report that came out Friday.
It looks like farmers will get the sun they need later this week, with bright days forecast from Wednesday on. However, temperatures will remain far below average. Environment Canada is forecasting a high of only 0 C for Wednesday, well below the usual 13 C.
Temperatures only hit the double digits with a 10 C forecast for Friday, before the high slips to 7 C for Saturday and Sunday.
Red Deer County Mayor and Delburne-area farmer Jim Wood said the weather has proven challenging, with many farmers still waiting for their crops to dry.
Many years, there is a welcome return of summer-like temperatures in October that give farmers an opportunity to bring in their crops.
“I’m optimistic that we will, in fact, see another stretch of warm weather, and this (snow) will be shortlived,” said Wood.
“Typically, I’ve probably harvested more grain in October than any other month.”
Snow aside, cooler temperatures make it harder for the crops to dry. If wet crops lay out too long, quality starts to suffer.
“When it’s cold like this, it doesn’t do much drying. I suspect we’re going to see farmers start to get very concerned about this point in time.”
Wood said he remains optimistic that the weather will co-operate and farmers will get to take advantage of crops that in many areas are expected to produce better-than-average yields.
The next three weeks will be key.
“Very rarely do we get harvest weather past the end of October.”