Some much-needed moisture during the month of June may have turned this year’s crop prospects around — at least in some parts of the province.
“It’s been an interesting growing season so far — from a very dry May to the central areas getting quite a bit of precipitation in June,” provincial crop specialist Mark Cutts said in a July 3 interview.
“In the areas that needed the moisture, the crops have definitely responded to the precipitation.
So hopefully, we can continue to get some moisture across the province as we move forward.”
A dry start to seeding on the heels of back-to-back drought years had many worried about yield before the growing season even got out of the gate. But two solid weeks of wet weather in much of the province has boosted crop growth, particularly in northern and central Alberta.
In the July 2 provincial crop report, almost 80 per cent of the crops in central Alberta were rated good to excellent, with that number climbing to 82 per cent in northeast Alberta and 88 per cent in the northwest — all significantly higher than both the five- and 10-year averages for those regions.
“We did start off dry, but certainly, June has been a wetter month in many areas of the province,” said Cutts.
“June is an important month for crop growth, so the fact that we did get moisture in June has taken crops that were suffering from the lack of moisture and has now given them the moisture that they’ll need to continue to develop throughout the growing season.”
But Mother Nature did not share her moisture bounty with all regions.
“In the areas that are still dry, the crops likely aren’t as good as they are in some of these other areas,” said Cutts.
In the Peace Region and southern Alberta, just over half of the crops are rated as good to excellent (52 per cent and 54 per cent respectively).
“Southern Alberta is certainly below the provincial average, as is the Peace Country,” said Cutts. “That, I think, reflects the moisture conditions. Southern Alberta and certain parts of the Peace have been on the drier side.”
In those regions, producers should try to put extra focus on catching problems in the crop before they start, helping maintain whatever yield and quality is already there.
“That’s one thing that producers can do — scout their crops,” said Cutts. “As we move forward and the plants continue to develop, you’ll want to be looking for things like disease and insects. Maybe there’s some disease or insects that are causing concerns, so scouting and managing them if necessary would be one way to ensure yield.”
Proper grain handling at harvest is another way to squeeze out a few extra bushels per acre and maintain quality, he added. That includes everything from choosing the right pre-harvest aids, timing harvest operations correctly, assessing harvest losses during combining, and storing the grain properly.
“Toward the end of the season, it’s just a matter of managing that crop at harvest time as best you can,” said Cutts.
For some producers, however, the damage may already be done.
“When we get moisture in June, the crops are still young enough that we should see a positive response to growth and yield in those areas,” said Cutts. “If moisture is the limiting factor, though, there’s not a whole lot that can be done. If you’re in an area where it’s been consistently dry and the crops are under extreme stress, there’s really not much you can do at that point.”
Those producers can expect to take a yield hit — but it’s too soon to say how much the impact might be.
“It’s hard to say where we’ll end up — we’ve still got a couple of months of growing season left — but certainly the moisture that’s been received will benefit crop growth and ultimately yield,” said Cutts.
“But for the areas that have started dry and remained dry, we can expect to see an impact on yield in those areas.”