It was about time — harvest a totally different story this year

Yields and quality were all over the map, but most producers were able to get it done much earlier this year

It wasn’t perfect of course, but the difference between this year’s harvest and last year’s hellish one was stark.

As of Oct. 6, about 90.2 per cent of crops in the province were off the field — nearly double the dismal 48.4 per cent figure from the province’s harvest report on Oct. 8, 2019.

The key was a bout of dry weather in the fall only seen once in a generation, said the report from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

“Most areas in the North East, North West and Peace Regions received only 15 to 20 millimetres of rain (since Sept. 1), which was extremely low, with the probability of happening once in 25 to 50 years,” said the report. “For a large area within these regions, precipitation has been even lower, with the probability of once in 50 years. Low precipitation along with the warmer-than-average temperatures has allowed producers across the province to make significant harvest progress by the first week of October.”

But while all five crop regions in the province were significantly ahead of their five- and 10-year harvest averages, it was a very different story on yields and quality.

The clear winner — by a mile — was the South.

Harvest progress as of Oct. 6.
photo: File

Average yields there for the big five crops (wheat, canola, barley, oats, and field peas) were 40 per cent higher than the five-year average.

So, too, was quality.

“About 95 per cent of hard red spring wheat, 98 per cent of durum wheat and all oats are graded in the top two grades,” said the crop report, adding two-thirds of barley hitting malt quality and 88 per cent of canola grading No. 1.

It’s a dramatically different story in the north, where crops struggled to overcome a cool, wet spring and delayed seeding, with many battered further by unwanted summer rainstorms.

Yields in the North West were just 75 per cent of the region’s five- and 10-year averages. Only 30 per cent of spring wheat hit No. 1 grade, just 10 per cent of barley was malt quality, and 98 per cent of oats was grading No. 3. (About 20 per cent of canola was in swath and seven per cent still standing as of Oct. 6.)

Yields for the big five were a bit better in the Peace, but were still just 86.4 per cent of the five-year average. However, compared to the North West, quality was considerably better — 50 per cent of wheat was grading No. 1, 30 per cent of barley was malt quality, and 76 per cent of canola had graded No. 1.

Forecast yields as of Oct. 6.
photo: File

The North East was smack in the middle when it came to yields, which were just slightly above the five- and 10-year averages.

But it’s been a decidedly mixed bag for quality. It was average for barley (16 per cent eligible for malt and 76 per cent rated as No. 1 feed) and slightly above average for wheat (87 per cent in the top two grades). On the other hand, 96 per cent of canola was No. 1 grade and oat quality was also above average. But none of the pea crop is No. 1 quality and more than a third is rated as feed quality.

“Crops in flooded acres are coming off with lower yield and quality,” the report noted.

Producers in the Central area had, on average, an excellent year.

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Yields for the big five crops were nearly 17 per cent above the five-year average and just over 20 per cent ahead of the 10-year average. And overall, the big five saw better-than-average quality.

“About 95 per cent of hard red spring wheat, all durum wheat and 94 per cent of oats are graded in the top two grades,” the crop report said. “Almost 50 per cent of barley is eligible for malt… (and) for canola, 88 per cent is graded as No. 1.”

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