Despite harvest running two to three weeks late due to rain and cool temperatures, most Peace Region producers are happier than in recent drought-reduced years.
As of Oct. 1, Alberta Agriculture market specialist David Wong estimated that five to 50 per cent of harvest was complete. It really varies depending on area, he said.
North Peace producers were faring the best. Up through Fort Vermilion, High Level and LaCrete areas, those guys will be done by Oct. 2-3, said Wong.
Otherwise it s hit or miss.
Overall, there s a big area that s probably 20 per cent complete by Oct. 1 but some areas, such as around Rycroft and the South Peace were only five per cent done, he said.
Wong said producers are pleasantly surprised with their yields.
Near LaCrete, yields are coming in at least average to slightly higher than average, said Wong. That area has had quite a few years of decent crops so the average yield numbers are moving up.
Grades are surprisingly good throughout the Peace, he added.
Mother Nature gave Peace producers a free pass in mid-September when a killing frost that fell on the eastern half of Alberta all the way through to Manitoba missed the area, said Wong. By the time a killing frost did arrive, it was too late to do any damage.
There was so much second growth, but some of the early wheat got off No. 1. and we re seeing lots of No. 2.
Wong said there are some outstanding-looking cereal crops in some areas, but just so-so in other places.
Right through the central Peace from Dawson Creek to Falher, it s spotty depending on soil type and June rainstorms, said Wong. The west end of the County of Grande Prairie is mediocre as well, he added.
We ve seen some very uneven growth with the amount of rain we had this summer, said Wong. It s going to affect our quality in some areas this year.
Most of the cereals have been affected, and we re seeing lots of second growth.
Much of the Peace was yellow this summer, and producers are harvesting some exceptional canola crops. Wong said diseases haven t been a problem.
Unseasonably warm, dry weather throughout September has been a godsend, said Wong.
By the third week of September, combines were out in full force in canola fields, with some wheat being swathed as well.
Wong said that s not typical.
Normally, they re trying to get wheat off straight, but this year we re concerned about frost and even snow.
Everything is having to be bunched up because of the time frame we re in now, he said. As usual, pea crops were the first to come off, and Wong said yields are all over the place depending on whether they were under water.
The most recent Agriculture Financial Services Corporation Peace crop report said 95 per cent of spring wheat was grading 2 CW or better, 98 per cent of barley was grading 1 CW or better while 99 per cent of canola was grading 1 Canada. Subsoil moisture ratings remain unchanged with 62 per cent of Peace soils rated at excellent and another 33 per cent rated good.
He s calling for an average fescue crop in the Peace. Yields here are all over the place too, some are decent, some lower than expected.
Grass seed market slow
Fescue acreage is significantly down this year, and the Canadian dollar continues to hurt producers. About 550,000 acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixes were seeded this year in the Peace, compared to more than 860,000 last year.
Most of our fescue goes to the States, and right now it s selling at about 45 cents per pound, said Wong. Decreased production and a lower supply might nudge up prices, though he notes the U.S. housing market continues to depress fescue prices.
There s no shortage of hay anywhere this year, and the Peace is no different. Yields are really good thanks to all the moisture, and supply is plentiful.
Desiccation didn t go well for many producers.
It just didn t want to dry down, explains Wong. Some guys desiccated their wheat three to four weeks ago and still nothing.
They re giving up and not waiting. They just have to go.
Overall, Peace producers are happy. Prices are still holding strong for canola and wheat, and hay pricing is back to normal, Wong said.
But as of last week, they needed more time. Another stretch of good weather would do it. We need about three weeks.