Ponoka area farmers deal with rain

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By Adam Jackson

As sung by country singer Luke Bryan, rain is a good thing. But for farmers in central Alberta, the rain can stop any day now.

The relentless downpour of rain has wreaked havoc on many area farms, specifically hay and barley farms, says Shayne Steffen, Ponoka County’s manager of agricultural services.

“We’re definitely seeing losses in barley with fungal crop disease, which is caused by moisture and the hay is depleting in value due to nutrient loss.”

The rain comes with its pros and cons, though, says Steffen. Wet and cool conditions have kept grasshopper numbers down, and lack of warm weather has kept aphids at bay for the most part.

“A lot of guys are saying that there are going to be a lot of losses in barley with crop disease,” said Steffen. “At the time when they had to spray for crop disease, we were experiencing a lot of rain, so they weren’t able to get it done.”

The amount of crop damage from flooding, hail and fungus also puts a large strain on another entity — the farm insurance providers.

Agriculture Financial Services Corporation’s Brian Tainsh has spent days out in the field in Ponoka County surveying damage.

“With this much moisture and if they haven’t sprayed for it, they’re bound to get some kind of disease,” said Tainsh, provincial adjusting manager.

“It will definitely be present, I can see that one already.”

Tainsh says that although it doesn’t look good for farmers at the moment, there is the possibility of a reversal of fortune if the weather changes for the rest of growing season.

“If it gets hot and dries out, it could turn around. But the odds of that, when you look at the summer we’ve had so far, are very slim.”

“In the Ponoka area so far, we’ve had a lot of hail damage, we’ve had drowned out areas, we’ve had unseeded acres because they couldn’t get into them,” said Tainsh.

Due to the wet and cold spring, many crops in the Ponoka area are between seven and 10 days behind schedule. Tainsh says that although they are behind schedule a warm and dry ending to the summer could bring them back up to speed. But if it doesn’t, farmers run the risk of frost damage.

“If they experience frost, it can severely damage their crops and they will lose a lot of value,” said Tainsh.

Now, for AFSC and Tainsh, all they can do is wait it out and hope for the best.

“Some of my adjustors that I’ve spoken to have told me that they have never seen fields so saturated — they’re almost hard to walk in,” said Tainsh. “It’s to the point now where they could turn the taps off, there’s definitely enough moisture to last for the rest of the summer.”