Special-Crop Growers Looking For “Normal” Summer

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“We like to be done by the end of May but beans emerge faster from warmer ground and they can really make up time with daytime temperatures around 30 and warm nights.”

OWEN CLELAND

VITERRA BEAN DIVISION

Special-crop producers in southern Alberta are among those rushing to catch up on seeding after snow and rain last month

Bean growers seeded round the clock to get their crops in before the cold, wet weather system in late May. “Growers put on a real push when this weather was forecast,” Owen Cleland, production manager for Viterra Bean Division said May 28. “We’re 60 to 70 per cent seeded, so we need just a few more days so people can be done seeding before the crop insurance deadline of June 10.”

Cleland said growers we’re not too concerned yet. “We like to be done by the end of May but beans emerge faster from warmer ground and they can really make up time with daytime temperatures around 30 and warm nights.”

Seed sitting in waterlogged ground is a concern should it require reseeding of some fields. Two years of record-high bean prices have put seed prices for most types up to $60 to $80 an acre for row crops and up to $125 for solid seeding. New yellow beans are even more expensive.

Cleland doesn’t expect bean prices to be as strong as they’ve been in the last couple of years due to he high Canadian dollar and a big Mexican crop. Free trade agreements between the U. S. and Colombia and the Dominican Republic have allowed American competitors to take over some long-term Alberta customers.

Sugar beets

Sugar beets are usually one of the first crops in the ground, but the major snow storm in mid-April put a stop to seeding and that storm, along with others since left areas of standing water that growers seeded around. Many farmers haven’t been able to get back to those areas.

“Some crops have struggled,” said Andrew Llewelyn-Jones, agricultural supervisor for Rogers Sugar in Taber. “Cold soils, soil crusting and wind have hurt crops, but we have some good stands. It’s a long way until harvest and if we have the hot, dry summer the Weather Network is predicting, or even an average year, we could have a decent crop.”

Last year, beet growers had a good-looking crop and prices were at record highs, but an early deep freeze led to much of the crop being left in the ground. Despite that, this year’s acreage, at something over 30,000 acres, is down just a few hundred acres.

Beets are relatively tolerant of wet soil, so Llewelyn-Jones was not too concerned about the rains.

Potatoes

Potato Growers of Alberta director, Edzo Kok said seeding was a little late, finishing around May 25 instead of May 15 when growers aim to have crops in. Potatoes are mostly grown on sandy soils so rains are less of a problem than for some crops, but growers prefer to apply water as and when it’s ideal for the crop. “The ground is cooler than we’d like,” Kok said May 28. “We’d like some heat to get the crops going.”

Markets for processing potatoes are challenging this year with a high Canadian dollar as well as the euro at all-time lows and U.S. consumers buying fewer french fries. Processors have cut contracts back by 15 or 20 per cent and Alberta’s irrigated acreage is down 2,000 to 3,000 acres to a little over 47,000 acres.

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