Showers that have poured down throughout central Alberta over the last two weeks have left farmers thinking.
What are they thinking? Well, that really depends on where they are located, according to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry crop information specialist Harry Brook.
“A lot of these showers lately have been hit and miss across the region,” he said in an interview late last week.
“The rain has been really localized, leaving some farmers wanting some more rain, some with the right amount so far and some hoping it will stop. However, in general, the crops throughout the area are looking pretty good.”
The combination of moisture and heat through did help improve crop ratings in the region, with 77 per cent being reported as good to excellent – a jump of four per cent from the previous week. Most notable were spring wheat, canola and peas – all up by five per cent – while barley improved by two per cent. Pastures were being rated at 73 per cent good to excellent, a hike of four per cent, with hay up six per cent to 68.
Surface and subsoil moisture levels both rose considerably, rising by 15 and 11 points to 76 and 74 per cent respectively.
Brook, who went on an extensive tour of farms across the province last week, explained the majority of fields he saw looked great.
“The cereals I saw were looking awesome as were the peas and the corn is really loving all of this heat and moisture. Peas are dealing with the conditions fairly well also, though they are the most efficient users of water, something counter to what you might think,” he stated, adding most crops are about a week or two ahead in development compared to the long-term average.
“The only crop that is somewhat spotty is canola. While there are some fields that are doing wonderful, there are just about as many that are looking scabby.”
Producers looking to make hay this summer are also extremely frustrated Brook said, “It’s the one fly in the ointment. They go out and cut it only to see it rain so it doesn’t have any time to dry. And even if it doesn’t rain, it’s so humid in the morning then the clouds come later on to wipe out what looked like a promising sunny day.”
It’s a cycle that Brook added the entire province seems to be stuck in at the moment – where growing conditions are ideal with lots of moisture and humidity so that crops abound. However, it’s also the conditions that make it ideal for disease to sprout.
“During my tour, it seemed like a lot of producers were out spraying their crops and I wonder just how many have been checking to see if there is any disease present,” he stated.
“If a field is clean, just because your neighbour is spraying doesn’t necessarily mean you need to. Sometimes I believe it’s just a knee jerk reaction and it may not be necessary.”
Brook added scouting should be done on cereal crops to look for symptoms prior to spraying, and if there is some disease on the lower leaves, then there is a good chance spraying will allow the crop to maintain its maximum yield potential.
“It’s really the top two to three leaves that will generate the ability to produce full pods, while the lower leaves – even if with no disease present – lose some of their ability as they mature due to be shaded and may even see their best before date expire before spraying could do anything for them, especially if conditions turn dry in the next week.
“Therefore, it’s crucial to scout out fields for symptoms – not mistaking nutrient movement or loss – before deciding to spray and needed to protect those higher leaves for optimal yield.”
That said, Brook also stated that canola producers need to be cognizant in protecting their crops before sclerotinia stem rot and a few other diseases take hold, as once they do appear, it’s already too late.