Wet, cold weather dampens harvest progress

Alberta Crop Report: Conditions as of October 8

Most parts of the province experienced wet weather conditions in September and the month ended with a significant amount of snowfall in the south. In addition to wet conditions, average daily temperatures were below seasonal norms in most areas across the province over the past two weeks. Many places in Central and Southern Regions recorded a one in 50-year low temperature event. The poor weather conditions have led to a general slowdown in harvest progress, which could impact the quality of standing crops that remain in the fields. Warm and dry weather is needed across the province in the coming weeks to further advance harvest progress.

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Provincially, about 48 per cent of crops are now harvested and in the bin, compared to 40 per cent at this same time last year. Harvest progress, however, is well below the 5-year (2014-2018) average of 68 per cent (See Table 1 below). Regionally, despite the challenging season so far in 2019, harvest progress is actually ahead of last year for all regions expect for the Central Region. However, all regions are behind the 5-year average. The largest harvest delays are reported in the Peace Region (32 per cent behind), followed by the Central (26 per cent behind), North East (25 per cent behind), North West (19 per cent behind) and the Southern Region (four per cent behind), when compared to their respective 5-year averages. Estimates suggest that about 25 per cent of the unharvested crops are in swath, while 27 per cent are still standing.

Table 1: Estimates of Crop Harvest Progress as of Oct. 8, 2019.
photo: Source: AF/AFSC Crop Reporting Survey

The quality of standing crops is likely to deteriorate due to the prolonged wet and cool conditions. That said, the quality of harvested crops is highly variable across the province, depending on harvest date. Of the crops harvested so far provincially, about 85 per cent of hard red spring wheat and 83 per cent of durum wheat are grading in the top two grades. About 32 per cent of barley is eligible for malt grade and 51 per cent has graded as No. 1 feed. For oats, about 56 per cent is grading within the top two grades, which is lower than the 5-year average. Almost 91 per cent of harvested canola is graded as No. 1, with another seven per cent as No. 2. For dry peas, nearly 19 per cent is graded as No. 1, 54 per cent as No. 2, 19 per cent as No. 3 and eight per cent is in feed grade. It is important to note that these initial grading results are based on the volume of harvested crops to this point in time. With more than half of crops still in the fields, and much of it in central and northern regions, there is potential for crop quality to slip as combining activity continues into October.

Dryland yield estimates remained similar to previous estimates reported on September 27, with yields three and six per cent, respectively higher than the short and long term averages. The provincial average yields for potatoes on dryland and irrigated fields are estimated at 13.9 and 17.8 tons per acre, respectively. Yields for irrigated dry beans and sugar beets are reported at 2,700 pounds per acre and 29 tonnes per acre, respectively.

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

  • Minimum harvest progress has been made over the last week (about three per cent of major crops), as a result of a snowstorm over the weekend of September 28 followed by cool weather.
  • In this region, 84 per cent of the crops are in the bin, seven per cent are in swath and nine per cent are standing. Nearly 66 per cent of canola in this region has been combined, 17 per cent is swathed and the other 17 per cent is standing. For spring wheat, 82 per cent is now in the bin, seven per cent is in swath and 11 per cent still standing.
  • About 85 per cent of potatoes have been harvested, with yields on dryland and irrigated fields at 10 and 17.8 tons per acre, respectively.
  • To date, crop quality for malt barley, the top two grades of spring wheat, oats, canola and dry peas are all above their provincial 5-year averages, but below average for durum wheat No. 1, barley No. 1 feed and canola No. 1.
  • Surface soil moisture conditions (sub-surface shown in brackets) are rated as 7 (13) per cent poor, 43 (50) per cent fair, 48 (36) per cent good and 2 (1) per cent excellent.

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

  • Despite unfavorable wet weather, producers continued harvest operations, but at a slower pace. Since last week, producers were able to combine an additional 12 per cent of their major crops, with most cereals harvested tough and in need of drying or aeration. Some producers may choose to bale or swath graze grains in certain fields, due to grade loss.
  • About 37 per cent of crops are in the bin, 29 per cent are in swath and 34 per cent remain standing. Almost 14 per cent of canola in this region has been combined, 58 per cent swathed and 28 per cent is standing. For spring wheat, 38 per cent is in the bin, 16 per cent is in swath and 46 per cent is standing.
  • For harvested crops so far the quality is above the provincial 5-year averages, with the exception for barley No. 1 feed, which is below.
  • About 90 per cent of potatoes have been harvested, with dryland yield at 16 tons per acre.
  • Surface soil moisture conditions (sub-surface shown in brackets) are rated as 3 (11) per cent poor, 22 (34) per cent  fair, 63 (46) per cent good and 12 (9) per cent excellent.

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

  • After a spell of wet weather, producers were able to resume operations for a couple of days to advance harvest progress by 14 per cent for major crops from a week ago, this was before another cool wet system hit the region.
  • About 33 per cent of crops are in the bin, 39 per cent are in swath and 28 per cent remain standing. Nearly 18 per cent of canola has been combined, 68 per cent swathed and 14 per cent is standing. For spring wheat, 37 per cent is in the bin, 17 per cent is in swath and 46 per cent is standing.
  • To date, crop quality for the top two grades of the spring wheat, canola No. 1 and Barley No. 1 feed are above their provincial averages, while only 11 per cent of barley is eligible for malt. Quality for the top two grades of oats as well as dry peas are markedly below their provincial average.
  • Surface soil moisture conditions (sub-surface shown in brackets) are rated as 3 (3) per cent fair, 53 (45) per cent good and 42 (51) per cent excellent, with 2 (1) per cent excessive.

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

  • Inclement weather has slowed harvest progress. Over the past week, producers in most areas had only a few days of relatively good conditions and were able to advance the harvest by an additional 10 per cent.
  • Almost 29 per cent of the crops are in the bin, 38 per cent are in swath and 33 per cent remain standing. About eight per cent of canola is now in the bin, 83 per cent is in swath and nine per cent is standing. For spring wheat, 39 per cent has now been combined, two per cent swathed and 59 per cent is standing. About 98 per cent of potatoes have been harvested, with dryland yield at 12 tons per acre.
  • The quality for harvested hard spring wheat No. 1, malt and feed barley, oats and dry peas is below the provincial 5- year averages, due to the abundance of rain this summer, followed by a wet September.
  • Surface soil moisture conditions (sub-surface shown in brackets) are rated as 23 (23) per cent good and 70 (77) per cent excellent, with 7 (0) per cent excessive.

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

  • Rain, snow and cold weather limited the number of harvest days to just few throughout the region. However, producers were able to combine an additional 18 per cent of their crops over the last week.
  • Currently, about 34 per cent of crops are in the bin, 23 per cent are in swath and 43 per cent are standing. Nearly 25 per cent of canola in this region has been combined, 46 per cent is swathed and 29 per cent is standing. For spring wheat, 36 per cent is now in the bin and 64 per cent remain standing.
  • The quality for all harvested crops is above provincial averages, with the exception of dry peas.
  • Surface soil moisture conditions (sub-surface shown in brackets) are rated as 0 (3) per cent poor, 10 (20) per cent fair, 68 (58) per cent good and 12 (17) per cent excellent, with 10 (2) per cent excessive.

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