Peace Region An Island Of Dryness In A Sea Of Moisture

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“Crops from Grande Prairie west to the B. C. border are faring the best, but we all need a good, decent rain.”

DAVID WONG

ALBERTA AGRICULTURE MARKET SPECIALIST

Peace region producers would have been happy to take some rain off the hands of their colleagues in the south. Crops in northwestern Alberta got off to their best start in the last 10 years, but conditions have deteriorated since, reports Alberta Agriculture market specialist David Wong.

“We still have very little subsurface moisture,” he said. “Crops are hanging in there for now, but they won’t take long to power out.”

The Central Peace is experiencing particularly dry conditions, Wong said. “The farther north you go the drier it gets. Crops from Grande Prairie west to the B. C. border are faring the best, but we all need a good, decent rain,” he said. Some areas of the Peace received good amounts of rain – and snow – in mid-May, and that helped, said Wong. “Guys were able to crunch in whatever hadn’t been seeded by the end of May.”

Crop growth has been a bit slow because of cool nights. “You can really see it in the hay crops,” Wong said. “The first cut generally starts after the July long weekend. “We’re up to a week behind.”

Still, some good temperatures in the last week of June were a boon, Wong said last week. “The crops really took off after that, especially hay and that’s being knocked down now,” he added. Temperatures in the 30s the first week of July have exacerbated conditions. “We need a couple of rains in the next few days,” said Wong. “It’s just hit-or-miss showers so far.”

Insect problems

But with dry weather comes bug problems. “We had some flea beetle problems in the canola,” Wong said. “The chemicals wore off since the soils were so dry. By the time we finally got the moisture and the crops started to grow, the chemicals had lost effectiveness.”

There have been significant cutworm infestations in east Peace perennial crops, Wong said. “It’s really bad in timothy and hay stands. It’s hard to spray for cutworm because cutworms go down into the soil at night,” Wong said. “Producers need higher water volumes to get it in under control.”

Earlier this month, the Canola Council of Canada urged Peace producers to watch for lygus bugs and be prepared to spray. Drought-stressed canola may not be able to compensate for lost buds the way a healthy crop can, and though lygus bug feeding on canola at the bud stage is not normally a cause for concern, the drought-stressed canola in northwestern Alberta may not be able to compensate for buds lost to lygus feeding.

“We are getting reports of up to three to four lygus bugs per bud cluster in some areas of the Peace River region, where canola is under drought stress this year,” said Erin Brock, Canola Council of Canada agronomist. Grasshoppers aren’t on the radar in the Peace as yet, though Wong said the Fairview north to Peace River area is targeted as a potential problem.

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