Heatwave welcomed by farmers

Warmth will help some crops catch up after wet spring

The recent heatwave is welcomed by farmers who expect it to give crops a push into prime growing season.

A wet start to the season hampered some crops, and the warmth will allow for some catch up, say producers and agriculture watchers.

“(The heat) is really helping with getting the hay crops off,” said Jeff Nielsen, who farms near Olds and is chair of Grain Growers of Canada.

Generally, it’s been a “mixed bag” for central Alberta producers, he said.

“Average is probably the best word. Some areas are above average, then you go to areas where there has been excessive moisture.”

The earlier wet conditions affected some producers more than others, depending on where their farms are and what type of soil and terrain they have.

Some farms drain better than others, noted Nielsen.

“If the water can’t drain off and it’s saturated, the crop can’t live through that.

“It’s hit and miss. It’s what we deal with every year.”

Other farmers faced delays getting started this year, because they first had to get last year’s crop off the field. Harvest was interrupted last year because of the early arrival of winter.

Unfortunately, the summer storm season has produced a number of severe hail storms, which have flattened crops.

“There have been significant hail hits both north and south of Red Deer,” said Nielsen.

“Hail storms are usually never that wide, but they can be quite long. There was one a week ago that hit just north of the Olds overpass that was maybe 2 1/2 miles wide, but it was stretched out for 15 to 20 miles.

“Anything in the centre of that was 100 per cent loss.”

While hail insurance is available, it never covers all of a farmer’s losses.

“You’re not making money with hail insurance and a hail claim. You might cover your input costs.

“Now, we’re just patiently waiting. We hope we don’t have a fall like last year, the harvest from hell.”

The Alberta Crop Report, which was released on Friday, says while conditions vary across the province, the south and central regions of the province are doing well.

“South and central regions are experiencing good or excellent crop conditions well above the five- and 10-year normal,” says the report.

Overall, crop conditions in the central region, which stretches from Airdrie to Rimbey, are 32 per cent ahead of the five-year average and 61 per cent are rated good or excellent.

Just over half of the first-cut dryland hay has been taken off. Estimated yields are 1.8 tons per acre, with 59 per cent rated good or excellent.

First-cut irrigated hay is also half done, with yields of 2.5 tons per acre and 65 per cent rated good or excellent.

While the temperatures have warmed, hail “sometimes severe” has been reported across the region, says the report.

Agriculture Financial Services Corp.’s Ken Handford said conditions are looking pretty good in the central region.

“Ninety-two per cent of the crops have been rated good or excellent by the crop reporters, who we survey every week or two weeks.

“The conditions are somewhat better than last year and the five-year average at this time.”

Handford, a Lacombe-based product development analyst, said the crop quality also looks good and the heat is helping crops catch up.

“The (crops) are slightly behind what was normally expected based on the last five years, but this heat could actually pull things along. Heat can pull a crop along quite quickly.”

There has been some hail damage, much of it in the central region. Some farms in the Olds and Stettler areas have been hit hard in the past couple of weeks.

Overall, it has not been an unusually severe year.

“It hasn’t been a particularly big year for hail right now. Of course, things can change.”

Sylvan Lake-area canola producer Mike Ammeter said some farmers suffered from too much moisture, and said the heat is nice to witness.

“All in all, it’s nice to see some heat and I think we’re headed for not a bad crop here. We need the heat to advance the crops, so this is welcomed, for sure.”

Generally, the crops in the area look good, he said.

“There are drowned-out spots here and there. It’s still lost production when it’s drowned out, but hopefully, the good spots make up for the bad spots and we’ll have a pretty decent crop.”

He has not heard of a lot of hail damage in his area so far.



pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

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