The central region of the province is at normal precipitation levels so far this growing season, while areas to the north have seen higher than usual moisture, which is hampering seeding efforts. Image: Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

Central Alberta farming moving along nicely

Timing of weather ensuring crops in Ponoka area are doing well

The combination of rain, sun and wind at the right times this spring is making many central Alberta farmers happy.

Despite some trepidation about getting the crops seeded earlier this spring — due to trouble getting over-wintered crops off and very wet fields — the 2017 crop is nearly all in the ground in the Ponoka and Bashaw areas. And, the crops that have been seeded are performing well locally as well as across the central region.

“The region has gotten some good heat lately and when mixed with those drying winds over the last few weeks, it really helped get farmers into the fields,” said Neil Whatley, crop information specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

“With the exception of some of the really wet and low areas, the crops are coming along really nicely.”

Just under 99 per cent of the overall crop is reported as seeded in the region, while the provincial average is sitting at slightly more than 91 per cent — up 12 points from the previous week though behind the five-year average of 99.5 per cent.

Whatley added that peas have been finished for a while and are looking good as they emerge. Meanwhile, spring wheat and canola are nearly done with the fields that have been completed growing nicely.

“With the amount of moisture on some fields, many of those with spring wheat and canola that typically take around 108 days before harvest are seeding shallow and adding fertilizer — all of which will help cut the time it takes for the crop to pop up,” he said.

“The effect of doing that will see the actual length it takes for the crop to grow, which is good since the later seeding is putting harvest fairly close to when that early killing frost could appear.”

Seeding of barley and oats are lagging behind in the region with both sitting near the 95 per cent range, most of that being in the western portion of the region. Provincially, seeding of barley and oats are at 87 and 75 per cent respectively.

For those that have been planted, emergence is around 74 per cent, up from 51 the previous week, while cereals average is at the five to six leaf stage. Around the province, crop emergence is only around 66 per cent as areas in the north continue to struggle with excess moisture.

Pasture and hay fields in central areas remain good to excellent, according to Whatley, at 86 per cent as many fields that were marginal last summer have rebounded because of the better moisture levels over last year.

As for the over-wintered crops, province-wide there are between 35,000 and 50,000 acres that have yet to be handled though harvest is basically complete in the central region.

Of the crops that are off, estimates are that 35 per cent of threshed cereals are good quality feed, 45 per cent are marginal with the rest at little to no value. On the canola side, 63 per cent has been graded at Canada 3 or better and 31 per cent at sample grade because of the damage done.