Weather played havoc with some southern Alberta crops last year, but farmers still entered 285 entries in the North American Seed Fair for judging March 5. Shad Milligan, seed fair committee vice-chairman, said seed quality was down for some entries, but most came in above average for the past few years. “It is a consistent show,” he said, as judging wound down at Exhibition Park in Lethbridge.
Milligan said the number of entries in the pulse class was up significantly, including lentils, peas, beans and chickpeas. “It was nice to see more bean entries this year, and we hope the committee can do some things to encourage even more entries next year,” said Milligan. He was pleased with the overall appearance of the entries, especially considering the weather patterns in 2009.
Spring started extremely dry and cold, making it difficult for many farmers to get a uniform start for some crops. Then the fall turned cold and wet, a costly time at harvest and downgrading some crops.
Milligan pointed to sugar beets which were hit hard by fall weather. Farmers were forced to leave about 6,500 acres in the ground. Milligan said a prolonged Indian summer allowed most farmers to complete cereal, oilseed and specialty crop harvest.
“By then, the crop weather damage had been done where it hit,” he said. Milligan said seed growers are like all farmers, and he is looking for better weather for the 2010 crop. “The better the crop, the more entries seed farmers tend to send in,” he said.
During judging, Chris Whittle and Brian Schmidt of Green Prairie said the overall quality of the timothy hay samples were down from last year, but they were uniform, making the winning entry difficult to select. Pulse crops were judged by a panel of five specialists, and again, weather created a wide range of quality of entries. That actually made final selections easy.