Conditions were dry in central Alberta in May 2022 when this photo was taken. Timely rains in June and July saved many crops. This spring has once again been dry and more rain is needed. (Advocate file photo)

Recent rain helped some crops but more needed

Alberta Crop Report rated

Only 23 per cent of central region crops were rated good or excellent ahead of Wednesday’s rain, according to the Alberta Crop Report.

Crop conditions up to last Tuesday are included in the latest report by Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation and Agriculture Financial Services Corporation. A year ago, nearly 80 per cent of major crops were excellent or good. The five-year average is about 82 per cent and the 10-year average is 74 per cent.

Just prior to this week’s rain, nearly 54 per cent of farm soil moisture was rated poor and about 28 per cent was fair in central region. Moisture levels were only good on 17 per cent of land and almost none — just over one per cent — was rated excellent.

For pasture, 43 per cent was rated poor, 20 per cent fair, 34 per cent good and three per cent excellent. For tame hay, 53 per cent was poor, 18 per cent fair, 34 per cent good and six per cent excellent.

Jim Wood, who farms and raises cattle in the Delburne area, was seriously considering whether he was going to have to sell off animals earlier this week because of the state of pastures. After getting 1 1/2 inches of rain Wednesday and early Thursday, reducing his herd is an option still on the table.

Wood said his son and a crop specialist were out taking a look at their wheat crops on Friday to see whether it would likely be harvestable. It appears the wheat may be about to head out at four or five inches, which is right at the minimum height to make them harvestable.

“We don’t know yet. We’re not in a good situation on some (of the crops),” he said Friday.

Crops that were planted later seem to be doing better because they did not run out of moisture, he added.

It is difficult to make any broad statements about crop conditions in the large county because there are many variables. Some got rain in the spring and this week that will have missed others.

“We have had spotty rain that has created extremely difficult circumstances for many farmers. Some will be in worse shape than others.

“It depends on the field and it depends on the crop. What I will say is we have a very serious situation right now.”

Some crops will bounce back but many will not reach their full yield potential. “In some areas, the damage has been done.”

Wood said he will reassess next week whether the crops are salvageable.

“Without that rain it would have even been worse. Recognizing that some of these fields will now produce crop, if that drought would have continued every day it would have become a worst-case situation. That rain was extremely important.

“I do think we’ll have a better handle on it mid-next week and we’ll see what moisture we get in the meantime.”

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