Alberta harvest continues, 11 per cent of crops remain

Alberta Crop Report: Conditions as of November 5

Following a cooler than normal growing season, September brought several wet spells, interspersed by two major dry spells, each lasting less than two weeks. In October, wet spells occurred more frequently, with the northern half of the province blanketed with a few cloudy days. Over the past month, all areas in the province experienced below normal temperatures, which, when coupled with precipitation, made harvest operations difficult. In many areas, the recent snowfall with more still in the forecast, is most likely to bring harvest to a complete halt for the season. Some planted acres will be abandoned, while those with yield potential will likely remain unharvested until spring.

Provincially, about 89 per cent of crops have been harvested in Alberta, compared to 95 per cent at this time in 2018 and 76 per cent in 2016 (See Table 1 below). Both 2016 and 2018 crop years had record long harvest seasons. Despite the challenging season so far in 2019, harvest progress is still ahead of 2016 for all regions, with the exception of the Peace Region which is behind. Currently, about 11 per cent of all crops across the province remain unharvested, with five per cent in swath and six per cent standing.

Table 1: Estimates of Crop Harvest Progress as of November 5, 2019. Source: AF/AFSC Crop Reporting Survey

Regional grading is greatly variable across the province, as crop quality over the season has been impacted by hail damage, severe frost and harvest date in different regions. Provincially, about 74 per cent of hard red spring wheat and 83 per cent of durum wheat are graded in the top two grades. About 34 per cent of barley is eligible for malt and 47 per cent graded as No. 1 feed. For oats, about 56 per cent is graded in the top two grades. Almost 78 per cent of canola is graded as No. 1, with another 14 per cent as No. 2. For dry peas, about 21 per cent is graded as No. 1, 52 per cent as No. 2, 19 per cent as No. 3 and eight per cent as feed.

Similarly, yields have been variable across the province, due to dry conditions in the southern parts of the province and wet conditions in other parts. Final estimates of dryland yield indices suggest that yields are on par with the 5-year averages, while they are estimated six per cent above the 10-year averages (See Table 2 below). 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 2,650 pounds per acre and 28.6 tonnes per acre, respectively.

Table 2: Dryland Yield Estimates as of November 5, 2019 Source: AF/AFSC Crop Reporting Survey

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

  • Minimal harvest progress (two per cent of major crops) was made over the last week, due to snow flurries, rain and cool weather. There have been reports of rejected potatoes and sugar beets by processors, due to frost damage in early October. Some damaged potatoes and sugar beets acres will likely be abandoned.
  • Regionally, 97 per cent of crops are in the bin, compared to 96 per cent in both 2016 and 2018. Currently, about two per cent of crops are in swath and another one per cent standing.
  • About two per cent of oats and canola, one per cent of spring wheat, 11 per cent of potatoes and 44 per cent of sugar beets are still standing, with another two per cent of oats and spring wheat and three per cent of canola in swath.
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  • Crop quality for malt barley, the top two grades of spring wheat, durum wheat, oats and dry peas are all above their provincial 5-year averages, while barley No. 1 feed and canola No. 1 are below. About 92 per cent of canola is in the top two grades. This is on par with the provincial 5-year average, with 68 per cent graded as No. 1.

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

  • Snow and unfavorable conditions prevented producers from completing harvest in the region. Over the past week, producers were only able to combine an additional five per cent of their major crops. With too much snow in fields and frozen ground conditions in most parts of the region, it is likely that harvest has been wrapped up for the year. Any unharvested fields will mainly be swath grazed.
  • About 92 per cent of crops are in the bin, compared to 96 per cent in 2018 and 70 per cent in 2016 at this time. Almost five per cent of crops are in swath and another three per cent standing.
  • Nearly four per cent of dry peas and three per cent of spring wheat, barley, oats and canola are still standing. Also, five per cent of spring wheat and oats, three per cent of barley and eight per cent of canola are in swath.
  • Quality is above the provincial 5-year averages for all harvested crops. The only exceptions are barley No. 1 feed and the top two grades of canola, which are below.

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

  • Cool and damp weather made harvest difficult to complete. Even so, harvest progress for major crops advanced nine per cent from a week ago. The majority of grains were harvested as tough and needed to be dried.   About 87 per cent of crops are in the bin, compared to 96 per cent in 2018 and 68 per cent in 2016 at this time. Almost 10 per cent of crops are in swath and three per cent standing.
  • Almost four per cent of spring wheat, two per cent of barley, oats and canola and one per cent of dry peas are standing. Also, six per cent of spring wheat and barley, 15 per cent of oats and 16 per cent of canola are in swath.
  • Crop quality for the top two grades of spring wheat and oats are in line with the provincial 5-year averages, with only 20 per cent of spring wheat and 17 per cent of oats graded as No. 1. Only 13 per cent of barley is eligible for malt, with 71 per cent graded as No. 1 feed. For canola, 96 per cent has been graded in the top two grades, which is above the provincial 5-year average. Quality for the top two grades of dry peas are markedly below the provincial 5-year average, with only two per cent graded as No. 1, 45 per cent as No. 2, 35 per cent as No. 3 and 18 per cent feed.

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

  • Producers in this region benefited from relatively good harvest conditions over the past week and were able to significantly advance harvest by an additional 20 per cent. However, cold weather and snowfall have halted harvest and more snow in the forecast, may suggest an end to the 2019 harvest season.
  • With almost 93 per cent of crops in the bin, harvest progress in the region is ahead of both 2016 (55 per cent) and 2018 (87 per cent) at this time. Almost four per cent of crops are in swath and three per cent standing.
  • About three per cent of spring wheat and barley, four per cent of oats and one per cent of canola are standing. Also, one per cent of spring wheat, three per cent of barley, two per cent of oats and seven per cent of canola have been swathed.
  • Quality for all crops are below their provincial 5-year averages, with the exception for canola No. 1, which is slightly above average. About 92 per cent of canola is graded in the top two grades, with 82 per cent graded as No. 1. About 68 per cent of spring wheat is graded as No. 2 or better, with 11 per cent graded as No. 1. Only seven per cent of barley is eligible for malt and 31 per cent graded as No. 1 feed. For oats, 19 per cent is graded in the top two grades. None of the harvested dry peas in this region graded as No.1, while 18 per cent graded as No. 2, 57 per cent as No. 3 and 25 per cent as feed.

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

  • Producers in some counties were able to combine an additional four per cent of crops over the past week, as cold weather, rain and snow in other counties halted harvest.
  • With only 63 per cent of crops in the bin, harvest progress in the region is behind both 2016 (79 per cent) and 2018 (94 per cent) at this time. Almost 14 per cent of crops are in swath and 23 per cent standing.
  • In this region, 38 per cent of spring wheat, 44 per cent of barley, 35 per cent oats, 13 per cent of canola and 12 per cent of dry peas are still standing, while one per cent of spring wheat and barley, three per cent of oats and 27 per cent of canola are in swath.
  • Quality for harvested barley No. 1 feed is above the provincial 5-year average, with 20 per cent of barley eligible for malt and in line with the average. About 33 per cent of harvested spring wheat is graded as No. 1, and 20 per cent as No. 2, which are below the provincial 5-year averages. Quality for harvested canola is also below the provincial 5- year average, with 73 per cent graded as No. 1 and 15 per cent as No. 2. None of the harvested dry peas in this region graded as No.1, while 85 per cent graded as No. 2, 10 per cent as No. 3 and five per cent as feed.

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