Another dry year in the Peace

Early A harvest that often drags on in the region was 
pretty much done by the end of September

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The Peace region failed again this year to live up to its reputation for too much moisture, but you won’t hear too many complaints.

As in many other area of the Prairies, canola failed to live up to its early promise when the combines arrived. Dryness, heat, bugs and disease all contributed to canola’s less-than-stellar performance, said Alberta Agriculture market specialist David Wong, but yields are still around 30 bushels per acre, or about average.

“The last time we had any real amounts of precipitation were May and June when some of the lower spots got drowned out,” Wong said. “They never came back.”

High, dry temperatures throughout July and August didn’t help much, and lygus bug and sclerotinia along with aster yellows diseases rounded out the hits.

Producers near Falher and Girouxville suffered losses when a storm went through near the beginning of September. “One farmer there said the hail took out up to half of his canola,” Wong said.

But most Peace producers are content, he said.

Harvest was more than 95 per cent complete at the end of September, about two weeks ahead of schedule.

“It’s just been a beautiful harvest,” said Wong. “At this time last year, we had barely started.”

Missed the wind

Extreme wind conditions that plagued Alberta and shelled out swathed crops had little affect in the northwestern portion of the province, since producers had already combined.

“Some of our guys were wrapped up by the middle of September,” Wong said at the end of last month. “Others are being a bit choosy, waiting for the green to turn in a few hundred acres yet.”

Wheat yields are coming in about average, between 45-55 bushels/acre. Top grades were off by the third weekend of September.

“Grades for this region are quite good compared to what’s normal,” said Wong.

Peace pea yields are all over the map, he said. “On average, we’re looking between 40-45 bushels per acre.”

Wong attributes their good performance to the fact they are seeded early so the May and June rains were of particular benefit.

Barley and oat acres were down significantly in the northwest this season, Wong said.

“One crop that did quite well was winter wheat,” he noted. Yields came in between 50-75 bushels/acre.

“Lots of guys have started using it in their rotation since it spreads out the workload and machinery costs,” Wong said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t around 100,000 acres of it up here.”

Grass seed acres have been falling in northwest Alberta, and continue to do so.

“Lots of what’s been seeded needs moisture to get the seed set for next year and it’s not getting rain,” said Wong. “We’re looking at a below-average crop for grass seed.”

Hay came off in good shape, he said, but with cattle numbers still down, lots of pastures and hayland got turned into cropland.

Now that the grain is in the bins, Peace producers are using the time for some post-harvest field activities. Perennial weed control, soil fertility evaluation and fertilizer application are the usual list, but “I’m not sure how much fertilizer is going down yet as the ground is very hard,” Wong said.

“We’re very dry. We need lots of moisture to replenish the soil.”

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