Some better weather during the first half of October really helped farmers get nearly all of the crops off in the Ponoka area.
That was the big reason behind harvest being more than 98 per cent complete in the area, according to crop information specialist Harry Brook with Alberta Agriculture.
“It’s pretty much all wrapped up. There may be a few small corners left, but it’s basically all in the bin now,” Brook said in an interview last week.
That figure is slightly higher than the provincial average of 96 per cent that was released in Alberta Agriculture’s latest Crop Report that came out on Friday, Oct. 23.
Meanwhile, Brook explained that yields in the region were variable, depending on whether the localized showers hit fields at the right time and if that moisture was held in the soil during the dry periods earlier this summer.
“Some areas in the region have seen better than average, while other producers saw below average or rather poor yield. It really depended upon if the rain came at the right time or if the soil hung onto what it already had,” he said.
“As well, some farmers who seeded early saw some nice stands in their crops and those crops that were seeded fairly shallow didn’t fare too well and ended up being caught up in the dust.”
Brook added that 2015 saw canola and wheat yields all over the map, compared to 2013 that saw producers take in one of the best years they had ever seen in the area.
“It was difficult to get a handle on how things went this year. Those that left their canola out did see that later staging maturity compared to some others that took it off earlier,” Brook stated, adding that anything that was still green will likely be left out and might be able to get off the field and into the bin come spring.
On the other side of that, Brook said not many producers took too much of a risk this year following the generalized rain the area received in mid-July.
“Those farmers simply saw that moisture fill up what was out in the field and then took what was there when it matured,” he said.
“The rain the area got later in the growing season – late August into September and early October – will do well to recharge that soil moisture and go along way to setting up a much better spring.”
That late moisture will also make things better for livestock operators, according to Brook, in restoring the pastures and grazing areas that have been devastated over the past few dry, lean years.
“The pastures have started to rebound and grow as a result (of these latest rains). That’s given some hope, along with the prospect of a possible milder winter, to cattle producers and seen the price of feed drop to more traditional levels,” Brook explained, also stating the weather could extend pasture use until close to Christmas.
“A day less of using the tractor or having to feed cattle will take the pressure off producers and we’ve certainly seen that in the softening of feed and hay prices this fall. Earlier this year, prices skyrocketed on the ‘worse-case scenario’ being predicted, but that frenzy has weakened somewhat.”
Though, Brook did issue a word of caution that any overuse or abuse of the pastures that haven’t quite come back could result in losing out on its use for a while.
“Farmers need to let their pastures recharge, they can’t steal from it this year and expect to have to come back and use it next year,” he added.