Rain taking toll on farmers’ crops

Dry, warm weather needed

Spring rain storms are drowning some low-lying crops in central Alberta.

Sylvan Lake-area farmer Mike Ammeter said crops have been lost in a few water-logged places in his fields.

“Any low spots in the field, if it’s already fairly wet, now, you end up with water pooling. Crops won’t survive in that,” Ammeter said.

“Crops can survive being under water for a very, very short period of time. When they are under water for two, three, four days or longer, that crop is lost.”

He said rain started to become a problem a few weeks ago for farmers. Rain would be more welcome in July, as plants get bigger, and his wheat, canola, barley and peas need more moisture.

“It doesn’t take a lot of moisture to grow at this stage of the crop. We’re usually looking for some warm weather. Rain can come later. It’s not what we needed.”

According to the province’s latest Alberta Crop Report: “Soil moisture is near field capacity across a wide area of the province, running from the U.S. border, all along the foothills, up to Red Deer. In areas north of Lacombe, the soil moisture levels are nearing 50-year highs.”

Ammeter said the storm on the weekend that pummelled parts of Calgary and southern Alberta with damaging hail didn’t reach his fields.

He said storms of that size and magnitude usually don’t arrive until July. Some young crops can come back from a certain amount of hail, but it’s almost getting too late in the season.

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In the meantime, he is trying to finish up crop spraying, but rain was forecast again for Wednesday.

“I need some warm, dry weather, and that’s in short supply, it looks like.”

Ammeter said after last year’s cool, moist summer, farmers were looking forward to getting enough heat so that harvest wouldn’t be delayed into late fall again.

According to Agriculture and Agri-food Canada maps, 130 to 170 millimetres of precipitation has fallen in the Red Deer area since April 1, which is considered the start of the growing season.

Dan Kulak, meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said only five to 10 per cent of previous years have been wetter than the current growing season in the Red Deer area.

He said this week will be also be damp.

“The general pattern is not looking like a long-duration soaker, but just a long-duration dampish, coolish pattern for the next few days. It looks like the weekend will be better and warming up.”

He said as summer storms start to pick up, people should remember that even small storms can produce lightning and be dangerous.

“Keep your eye on the sky. Lightning is the biggest killer,” Kulak said.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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