Challenging harvest period keeps farmers guessing

Rain early in the harvest season keeps agricultural experts guessing.

Late July and August rains appear to have helped a lot to brighten the harvest outlook as compared to mid summer, but recent rainy weather could equally effectively darken the prospects for a fruitful harvest season, according to agricultural experts.

Harry Brook of provincial government’s Ag Info Centre described this year’s harvest as “very challenging” due to unpredictable weather conditions.

“It is a kind of a mess,” he said in explaining the progress of the harvest.

While canola crop is overripe in many areas, he says there are areas where some grains are ready to be harvested, some close to getting there, and some fields where there is still need for a lot of cooperation from weather to ensure that the second growth can run its course.

Brook said the quality of the crops looked fairly good while the yield levels changed wildly from one region to another. “Some producers are getting 40 to 50 bushels of wheat and 80 bushels of barley and there is nothing wrong with those yields, but I also heard of people getting 35 to 40 bushels of barley and 20 bushels of wheat and 15 bushels of peas, which is well below average.”

The weather, however, will continue to be the key factor in deciding ultimately whether the province will have a healthy harvest.

Brook said much warmth and dry conditions would be needed for the harvest to be completed in a fruitful fashion, “If it gets wet, you can get bleaching in the wheat, and that downgrades (the crop)… and if it stays wet long enough, you get germination in the seeds, it’s a real bad thing.”

As for the Ponoka County, Justin Babcock, Manager of Agricultural Services, said the harvest was still in the beginning stages with about 15 percent done so far.

Babcock also sounded optimistic about the outlook. Referring to dry conditions earlier in summer, he said although crops looked stunted before, recent rains had helped growth. “I’ve heard that yields are looking half decent, but it seems heads are filled out in most of the crops.”

Speaking on Friday, Sept. 4, when it was raining, ”With this rain putting everyone off a little bit, I would say a lot of people will be done by the end of September,” he said with reference to the possible completion of the harvest.

The latest crop report on the ministry website said the central region extending from Coronation to Rimbey had seen some 9 per cent of the harvest completed with the highest rate being in dry peas with 71 per cent, followed in a distant second place by barley with 8.6 per cent.