Peace Region crops off to a good start

Forage seed High canola prices are taking a bite out 
of the area’s traditional specialty crop

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By all accounts, it’s shaping up to be a good year for Peace Region farmers. Perfectly timed spring rains coming on the heels of a series of heavy late-winter snowfalls have conspired to help replenish dry soils here.

Alberta Agriculture market specialist David Wong said given low moisture levels this winter, the snowstorms and rain came in with “exceptional timing.”

“Seeding is almost done across the district and went really well,” he said May 25. Now, he says, some warmer temperatures are all that’s needed.

“Peace Region crops germinated really good but the relative coolness hasn’t allowed things to grow,” said Wong. “We were still getting 0° overnight in the middle of May.” Jack Frost made a late-spring visit in some areas May 17 and 18. Still, with a 60-foot drill, it doesn’t take long to punch in a few hundred acres, he said.

Peace producers are again favouring canola making it the No. 1 crop. Wong estimates about 1.3 million to 1.4 million acres will be seeded across the district this year.

“Last year we seeded about 1.2 million acres and I think this year will be more due to the continued exceptional pricing,” he said. Wong said fall prices for canola are expected to be around $12/bushel. “Guys here aren’t afraid to stretch the rotation and put canola back to back,” he said.

Total wheat area last year in the Peace was 964,535 acres, and with prices sitting around $7/bushel Wong expects that number to remain consistent this year. Coming in at a distant third in 2011 were alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures at 569,971 acres.

As a result of strong canola prices, specialty forage crop acreage is again way down in the Peace, much the same as across the rest of the province.

“Typically the Peace is such a big grass seed-growing area but those acreage numbers have been coming down steadily since 2008,” said Wong.

Wong said farmers are on early bug watch duties, looking for cutworms and flea beetles before the spraying season kicks into high gear shortly.

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