Thursday, 29 September 2011 08:04

Farmers having a field day with most crops

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By Jamie Woodford
Southern Alberta
Despite fears that a soggy spring would hinder southern Alberta crops, the hot summer sun came to the rescue.
The fall harvest is well underway and things are looking good in most areas, according to agricultural fieldmen.

“It’s panned out very well,” said Jon Hood, fieldman for the Municipal District of Taber. “(Farmers) have been digging potatoes, sugar beets have started, so speciality crops are doing very well.”

He added yields should be average to above average — great news considering only a few months ago farmers didn’t think their crops would even get out of the ground.

“From what I’m hearing we’ve got an average crop to above average, like sugar beets are going to work out to be average, but a few months ago we weren’t thinking they were going to get anywhere.

“It’s turned around remarkably to seeing how it is now,” said Hood. “Even dryland farmers, I hear they’re getting a pretty good crop.

He noted some fields were damaged by hail.

“So not everybody’s in the same boat, but generally, it’s an average crop to above average.”

The hot weather is a double-edged sword for potato farmers who would prefer a little cooler weather for storage rather than crank the AC.

“They’re kind of at a standstill. They’re only digging what the plants can take, they don’t want to put ’em in storage yet,” Hood said.

Beans are a different story. The wet spring put bean crops behind, so a little more hot weather is just what they need to turn out this year.

In Vulcan County, fieldman Kelly Malmberg described the hot weather harvest as “awesome.”

“We were kind of looking at being late again this year, but that heat in the majority of August and the first part of September really brought the harvest on quicker than we were (anticipating),” he said.

“Harvest is in full swing and anywhere from people just starting to people almost wrapping up ... things are moving along pretty good.”

He added that overall yields and crop quality are good.

One concern, should the hot weather continue, is storing warm grains in bins with no way to cool off and release moisture increasing the risk of spoil.

“That was as big concern last week,” said Malmberg. “Guys were combining canola. It was plenty dry enough to put in a bin, but the temperature was so high it increased the risk that you have to go and aerate it or move the grain around.”

Hail hit hard in Pincher Creek this summer damaging crops and making yield predictions uncertain, said Municipal District of Pincher Creek fieldman Al Jacklin.

“Our yield has been affected by a lot of hail storms we had during the summer, and so there’s no general (prediction),” he said.

“We can go all the way from 60 bushels a week to 15 bushels because we’ve been hailed.”

Barley is anywhere from 10 to 85 bushels per week.

Adding to the disappointing harvest is that crop quality just isn’t there, Jacklin said.

Although barley farmers have a variety of marketing options, wheat crops were dealt a blow with the appearance of stripe rust.

Crops that were rid of rust turned out pretty good, but those crops that were heavily affected have reduced head size, he said.

On the positive side, the “excellent harvest weather” of late will get the remaining green wheat crops to mature and allow Pincher Creek farmers to plant a lot more winter wheat this fall.

“We’re going to get a lot of winter wheat sown this time because we had a lot of acres that hadn’t been sown in the spring and were too late to start another one, so winter wheat is in a lot of area now,” said Jacklin.

He said the need for rain in the near future to till soil for upcoming crops just adds to the uncertainty of the industry.

“You don’t have to go to Las Vegas to gamble, go farming,” he chuckled.

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