Low moisture levels slow crop growth across Alberta

Alberta Crop Report: Conditions as of June 18

Since the beginning of June, some parts of Alberta (especially in the western and central areas) experienced a more normal weather pattern, receiving up to 100 mm of rain. However, conditions in the Southern Region, eastern parts of the Central and North East Regions, northern parts of the North West Region and northern half of the Peace Region remained dry. With rain in the forecast, this is likely to change in the next several days, helping temper conditions and promote the active growth of crops.

Provincially, inadequate moisture levels have slowed the growth of crops, especially canola. As of June 18, 2019, crop growing conditions are rated as 63 per cent good to excellent, compared to the provincial 5-year average of 72 per cent and the long-term average of 71 per cent. Regionally, growing condition ratings were near normal in all regions, with the exception of the Southern and Peace Regions, which received little precipitation following seeding.

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Provincial surface soil moisture ratings have dropped from a week ago and sub-surface soil moisture continued to be inadequate, as the moisture was not enough to penetrate deep into the sub-soil. However, this is likely to change next week, given the current precipitation and forecasts for more rain. As of June 18, 2019, surface soil moisture (sub-surface soil moisture ratings shown in brackets) for Alberta was rated at 18 (20) per cent poor, 32 (36) per cent fair, 46 (38) per cent good and 4 (6) per cent excellent.

Pasture and tame hay growth conditions showed some slight improvement in the North East and North West Regions, but declined in others. For most parts of the province, including the Southern Region, it appears that it may be too late for forages to recover due to a dry spring combined with cooler than normal temperatures and multiple dry seasons over the past couple of years. Some producers are pasturing their hay and some have intentions to roll cereals, namely barley and oats, for silage purposes to sustain their livestock. Pasture growth conditions are shown in Table 2. Provincially, tame hay growth conditions are rated as 16 per cent poor, 37 per cent fair, 45 per cent good and two per cent excellent.

Region One: Southern (Strathmore, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Foremost)

  • Most counties in the region have remained dry. Dryland crops in areas with less precipitation have started to slow crop growth. Moisture is badly needed and is in the forecast, with some areas already experiencing rain. Spring seeded crops are mostly in the beginning of the stem elongation stage of development, while fall seeded crops are in the head emergence stage. About 56 per cent of canola, 54 per cent of dry peas and 38 per cent of lentils are in the 4-6 leaf/node stage.
  • Post-emergence is 78 per cent complete and still occurring. Gopher and flea beetles infestations are a concern, with some producers reseeding their fields due to pest damage.
  • Surface soil moisture is rated (sub-surface soil moisture ratings shown in brackets) at 21 (23) per cent poor, 39 (48) per cent fair, 39 (29) per cent good and 1 (0) per cent excellent.
  • Hay and pastures are not in good shape. Tame hay growing conditions are reported as 16 per cent poor, 31 per cent fair, 49 per cent good and four per cent excellent.

Region Two: Central (Rimbey, Airdrie, Coronation, Oyen)

  • Crop growing condition is relatively good for most parts of the region. A few counties are dealing with inadequate moisture conditions and is likely to change with the recent rain and more in the forecast. Spring seeded crops are mostly at the end of the tillering stage, while fall seeded crops are about to pass the booting stage, with some into the head emergence stage of development. About 55 per cent of canola, 60 per cent of dry peas and 54 per cent of lentils are in the 4-6 leaf/node stage.
  • Post-emergence spraying is 53 per cent complete. Flea beetles, army cutworms, wireworms and gopher infestations are concerns for the region.
  • Surface soil moisture is rated (sub-surface soil moisture ratings shown in brackets) at 29 (34) per cent poor, 23 (27) per cent fair, 45 (37) per cent good and 3 (2) per cent excellent.
  • Hay and pasture are still in poor conditions, despite the recent rain. Tame hay conditions are reported as 26 per cent poor, 28 per cent fair and 46 per cent good.

Region Three: North East (Smoky Lake, Vermilion, Camrose, Provost)

  • Growing conditions in most parts of the region are good, but crops remain highly variable in their stages of growth. Fall seeded crops have mostly started the flowering stage, while spring seeded crops are mainly in the tillering stage. About 52 per cent of canola are in the 4-6 leaf/node and 50 per cent of dry peas in the 7-12 leaf/node stage.
  • Post-emergence spraying has started, with 48 per cent complete. Some gopher infestations have been reported.
  • Surface soil moisture is rated (sub-surface soil moisture ratings shown in brackets) at 8 (13) per cent poor, 33 (29) per cent fair, 55 (43) per cent good and 4 (15) per cent excellent.
  • Hay and pastures are looking better, but still in need of moisture. Tame hay growing conditions are reported as 23
    per cent poor, 48 per cent fair, 26 per cent good and three per cent excellent.

Region Four: North West (Barrhead, Edmonton, Leduc, Drayton Valley, Athabasca)

  • With the recent precipitation, most crops in the region are advancing well. Some slow growth is still being reported for canola. Spring cereals are mainly in the stem elongation stage of development, while 71 per cent of canola and 65 per cent of dry peas are in the 4-6 leaf/node stage.
  • Post-emergence spraying is 71 per cent complete, with no over threshold pest infestation concerns.
  • Surface soil moisture is rated (sub-surface soil moisture ratings shown in brackets) at 3 (1) per cent poor, 27 (45)
    per cent fair, 66 (51) per cent good and 4 (3) per cent excellent.
  • Hay and pasture fields are in better shape compared to previous weeks. Tame hay growing conditions are now
    rated as three per cent poor, 35 per cent fair and 62 per cent good.

Region Five: Peace River (Fairview, Falher, Grande Prairie, Valleyview)

  • Scattered showers in most counties proved beneficial to crops but, overall, inadequate moisture levels combined with heavy thick smoke from wildfires have slowed crop development. Rain is very much needed, especially in the northern half of the region. Most cereals are in the late stages of the seedling, while 55 per cent of canola are still in the 1-3 leaf/node stage and 79 per cent of dry peas in the 4-6 leaf/node stage.
  • Post-emergence spraying is 39 per cent complete, with no over-threshold pest infestation concerns.
  • Surface soil moisture is rated (sub-surface soil moisture ratings shown in brackets) at 14 (7) per cent poor, 37 (25) per cent fair, 36 (49) per cent good and 11 (19) per cent excellent, with 2 (0) per cent excessive.
  • Hay and pasture are still in poor conditions. Tame hay growing conditions are reported as 10 per cent poor, 49 per cent fair, 38 per cent good and three per cent excellent.

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