Southern Specialty Crops Take An Extra Beating

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Southern Alberta’s specialty crops haven’t fared too well from this year’s wet weather.

About 1,000 acres of southern Alberta’s sugar beet crop have been lost to excessive rainfall since spring, said Andrew Llewelyn-Jones, agricultural superintendent for Lantic Sugar. One complete field was drowned out, and low spots in many other fields have been lost for the year. He said some of those areas were reseeded to other crops like barley, but others were inside sugar beet fields and left bare.

Farmers planted about 31,000 acres of beets this spring. Lack of hot weather continues to hinder plant development, Llewelyn-Jones said in early July. He anticipates yields this year won’t be as good as anticipated in the spring. Growth will be dictated by weather in July, August and September. He said hot weather last September allowed beets to add considerable weight.

Beans hit harder

Owen Cleland, of the Taber Viterra bean division plant, said up to 9,000 acres of the almost 48,000 acres planted have been lost to weather conditions. Cleland said the earliest-seeded beans have come through the persistent rains and cold weather best. Later-seeded fields are struggling, mostly because of the lack of any consistent hot weather.

“I think you could count the number of 30 days on one hand.”

Cleland said that with hot days and warm nights and no frost through September, farmers might have an opportunity to pull off an average crop.

He expects crop management changes to foster improved prospects.

Farmers could adjust the inputs destined for the crop to save money, and some may choose to restrict irrigation water to attempt to force crop maturity, choosing to take lower yields in favour of harvesting a mature crop. While farmers could be looking at reduced yields, crop insurance could boost returns, Cleland said.

The company, which operates processing plants east of Taber and in Bow Island, is hoping for enough beans to keep the plants operating and to cover costs. However, Cleland anticipates there could be some staff cuts similar to two years ago. “A lot of other crops have been hit hard by the weather, but dry beans have been hardest hit,” he said.

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