Provincial Crops Not Bad Despite A Shaky Start

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The warm, dry weather that all of Alberta enjoyed through August and September helped crops mature and has given farmers time to harvest them in good shape.

AsAlberta Farmerwent to press last week, harvest across the province was around three-quarters done. Areas west of Highway 2 are later and the Peace also lagged because of rain (see page 14). Most of this year s challenges were related to water, mostly too much early in the year, said Harry Brock of Alberta Agriculture.

He said the upland parts of fields germinated or kept growing while low-lying parts of fields drowned out.

Much of the later-germinating areas were still green when a killing frost hit areas north of Coronation in early September. But, overall, yields are good.

Brock said the growing season was tough on wheat.

We had some diseases that could be an issue. Stripe rust affected winter wheat, especially in the south. It jumped to spring wheat and spread north but mostly it was too late to affect yields. It s a disease we ll have to watch. There s quite a variation in resistance among varieties.

Many wheat samples have ergot in them this year. Affected grain is downgraded because ergot is toxic to humans and livestock. But, Brock didn t hear of any spraying of wheat midge. During the cool, early-summer conditions, wheat kept growing, but midge development was delayed, he said. The crop and pest were out of sync, so the high populations entomologists predicted weren t a problem.

Clubroot on the march

Clubroot in canola expanded its range with the disease found in two counties that were previously unaffected. I suspect there s more clubroot around than we ve realized, said Brock. The premature ripening looks much like sclerotinia. If you pull out plants, or if they pull out on the swather, you can see the lumpy roots. Fortunately, breeders have found sources of resistance in some of the material they already have.

Brock said blackleg in canola is also increasing as canola rotations have become tighter. Lygus bugs were sprayed just before canola ripened and bertha army worms were an issue in a few hot spots.

Leanne Fischbuch of Alberta Pulse Growers hopes this year will help encourage farmers to think again about enhancing the health of their farming system and put a pulse in their crop rotation.

Almost all the pulses are good quality, at least No. 2, this year, she said. Yields are decent and almost all of it is in the bin. With steady demand, prices are good too. No. 2 yellow peas are almost $9 and with yields varying from 35-45 bushels to a fantastic 60-plus around Vegreville, that s a decent return. The nitrogen benefits to following crops are a bonus.

Last year Alberta farmers grew over a million acres of pulses. This year, the acreage seems to be down a little, but Fischbuch is hoping interest in pulses as a cropping option will return.

People come back to peas for good reason, she said. Soil and following crop health, along with decent returns.

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Mostofthisyear schallengeswererelatedtowater mostlytoomuchearlyintheyear.

HARRY BROCK

ALBERTA AGRICULTURE

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