Crop Report: producers beat the snow with complete harvest
Local producers are breathing a sigh of relief as just about everyone got their crops in before the snow fell this year.
It is a marked improvement from last year when an early onset of winter left some crops still standing in the field until this past spring. This set a number of farmers back in the whole process of planting. This year, however, 99.7 per cent of all crops in the Central Zone were off the field by Oct. 31, according to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s final crop report of the season.
“It was weighing a lot on people’s minds ‘What if it happens again?’” said crop specialist Mark Cutts. “Just getting it off this fall and knowing that next spring ... when the fields are ... they can go out and seed without doing any combining I think is a major relief for all of those producers.”
The biggest area of concern this year came from the North where it was still pretty nip and tuck as to whether producers were going to finish harvest this year. According to the report, 95.3 per cent of the Peace Region did, which was the lowest in the province.
For yield estimates (bushels per acre), the Central Zone had an average year, landing at 100.2 per cent of the average, down from 120.5 per cent from last year. It was much better than the South Region which was plagued by dry conditions and came in at 73.4 per cent of their average rate.
Some producers were also hurt by initial frost conditions in early October, but were helped by a warm final couple weeks of the month which allowed them to get their harvest complete. The Peace Region also had what would be considered a bumper crop, despite difficulties getting it in before the snow with a yield of 117.5 per cent of their average.
Cutts said it was an average year across the board for yield of crops in the Central Zone. The report did indicate the overall crop quality in the region is above the provincial five-year averages for the top two grades of spring and durum wheat, oats, canola and dry peas, as well as malt barley, though some crops were hurt because of the early frost.
“If you are average but had a little bit better quality, that can certainly help in terms of revenue that you get for those crops,” he said.
All eyes now turn to moisture levels in the soil. Initial tests are quite varied in the region. In the Central Zone surface soil ratings (sub-surface ratings in brackets) are coming back with 18 (29) per cent rated poor, 39 (40) per cent fair, 32 (25) per cent good and 11 (six) per cent excellent. A healthy snowfall this winter will go a long way to ensuring supple growing conditions in the spring of 2018.
“It would be nice to be going into the winter with decent soil moisture reserves, we rely on soil moisture to help germination of our crops that we seed in the spring,” said Cutts.
“Depending what we get for snow and early moisture in the spring it can certainly change that situation.”