Wednesday, 06 September 2017 14:38

Southern Alberta experiencing harvest issues due to high temperatures and dry weather

Written by  Demi Knight
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A pair of combines makes their way along the rows of barley during the annual Canadian Foodgrains Bank harvest day Aug. 28 at the Coaldale-Lethbridge Community Growing Project field east of Coaldale. A pair of combines makes their way along the rows of barley during the annual Canadian Foodgrains Bank harvest day Aug. 28 at the Coaldale-Lethbridge Community Growing Project field east of Coaldale. Southern Alberta Newspapers photo by Ian Martens

A crop report released by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry on Aug. 23 shows Alberta’s south region to have seen rapid harvest progress in recent weeks with the dry and warm weather that the summer has brought to the province.  

With dryland crops stabilizing around 54 per cent, the south region of the province has pulled ahead with harvest progress however it isn’t enough to see the south zone in the best shape for harvesting this year.
Crop Specialist, Harry Brooks says the region could be seeing some concerns going into the winter months if this dryness continues.
“The big challenge facing producers going into the winter and for next year is a matter of moisture. The crops, such as they are on dry land, by now have used up what excess moisture was left over from last summer and fall.”
With the Aug. 23 report showing regions from Strathmore and Lethbridge to Medicine Hat and Foremost being below the five-year long term averages in dryland crop ratings, some moisture in the upcoming year is what crops really need to flourish moving out of the summer months. Brooks says although solid amounts of snow would help matters, it’s the upcoming spring and hopes for rain that will benefit the harvests the most.
“We need good snows this winter, but more importantly, we need timely rains next spring and summer to allow a crop to be seeded and harvested next year. Soil moisture reserves are currently used up and will need to be recharged.”
Pastures are another aspect of harvesting this year that are struggling due to the hot and significantly dry summer months. With 64 per cent of pastures being rated poor, and another 62 per cent of hay fields also being rated poor, the margin for fair pastures is significantly smaller than its opposite. Due to these poor pastures with the continuing drought that has plagued lands in the past months throughout southwest Alberta, the report also expects to see cow-calf producers being forced into providing supplemental feed earlier than usual this year.
However, Brooks says the dry weather is not all bad for the harvest, and most crops should be in good condition going into the colder months.
“On the plus side, the crops this year should have come off in very good condition and should be good quality.”
Brooks adds harvesting within the conditions Alberta has been seeing over the summer can be a difficult task.
“When it is very hot and dry, harvesting can be a challenge with crops more likely to shell out and harvest losses go up. This might require more harvesting done in the evening and night.”
The shelling problems Brooks describes the southern parts of the province may be seeing relate mostly to pulses and canola, however many cereal crops can also experience shelling out too.
“In the canola, if it dries too quickly, it is possible to have more-green colour locked into the seed, which is a quality problem,” explains Brooks of the problems canola may experience moving forward.
With southern Alberta remaining the most affected by this year’s dry conditions, dryland yield reductions have been seen between 25-30 per cent lower than last year.
These dry conditions however, are not exclusive to the south of the province as the problem expands to the central region with them seeing between 20-25 per cent lower yields than last year.
The remainder of the province expected to see yields coming in a slightly better figure of five to 10 per cent less than those of last year.
Although there are still some warm days left ahead, hopes for a cooler, damper winter and spring is what will really keep the harvest in its prime in the upcoming months.

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