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Very few fields left to be seeded

A warmer than usual spring combined with a dry first part of May has meant not much seed is left to be sowed in the area.

A warmer than usual spring combined with a dry first part of May has meant not much seed is left to be sowed in the area.

According to the latest Alberta Agriculture and Forestry crop report issued last week, Ponoka and area farmers are 98 per cent finished with their overall seeding program - just one per cent less than the same time last year.

The report stated producer have completed seeding of dry peas, mustard, durum, corn, lentils, chickpeas and potatoes with spring wheat, canola and flax just a few acres away from 100 per cent.

Meanwhile, there are still a few crops that need some work done. That includes barley sitting at 93 per cent and oats at 92.

With the area getting upwards of 150 per cent of normal rainfall during the last part of May, crop information specialist Harry Brook explained fields are now off to a much more even start than last year.

“Moisture was so short last year that many crops were in three or four different stages of development in the same field,” Brook said.

“The rain was very timely with farmers getting the seeding done at just the right moment. That’s given the majority of fields a good start and means they are growing fairly evenly.”

Brook added many fields are beginning to look really good, despite the frost events on a few nights early on in May.

“That frost didn’t have an appreciable effect since the seed had not emerged or wasn’t high enough to be susceptible, meaning the crops were more resistant,” he said.

That early seeding and the welcoming rain that followed has seen crops emerging at a fairly good rate in the area.

Overall, 79 per cent of crops have come up with durum being the highest at 89 per cent, followed by spring wheat at 85, canola at 78 and barley at 69.

The big rains late last month also improved the subsoil moisture levels - jumping several points to 76 per cent of fields rated good to excellent. However, surface moisture did decline slightly to 79 per cent rated good to excellent due to the hotter than normal week.

One thing Brook has noticed is the pea leaf weevil has stretched its territory northward from its usual haunt in southern Alberta, something that may concern some producers.

“(The pea leaf weevil) really seems to come out of nowhere,” he said.

“The Three Hills area was a real hot spot last year, but now it’s reached as far north as the Barrhead and Westlock areas.”

On the hay and pasture front, improved moisture levels have benefited those areas as both were reported as good to excellent in 76 per cent of the region.

That being said, Brook cautioned producers to use good pasture management practices as many of those fields were heavily used last year to the point where they need to recharge before they should be put back into production.

“Giving it a rest will allow it to recover and provide the opportunity for grazing throughout the rest of the summer,” he said.