Alberta harvest continues to be ahead of schedule

Harvest 2017 is moving along rapidly in Alberta thanks to consistently hot and dry weather across major portions of the province.

That’s the summary from Harry Brook, crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, who says any rain now wouldn’t really help any crop it would just delay harvest.

The most recent Alberta Crop Report from August 29 shows that 18% of the harvest is done, compared with the five year average at this time of just over 10%.

What’s leading the way? Brooks says like every year it is peas.

In fact, the South region of the province (Strathmore, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Foremost) is nearly done, 95% complete, when it comes to the pea harvest.

“It is the first crop seeded and it does mature quite quickly,” says Brook, who thinks the yield for peas will generally be below average.

While the heat has moved things along in the central and south, in northern Alberta some producers are just starting to get into the field because of how late they planted.

“Those who had to fight with last year’s crop, to take that off first, definitely they are later,” according to Brook, “A lot of crop was seeded in the first week of June even the second week.”

Those producers are looking for an extended frost free growing period, which Brooks says is a bit risky.

The crop specialist calls this the ‘multi-million dollar question’ with any harvest: When is the first killing frost?.

“There is a lot of crop that is two to three weeks away from harvest, a crucial period to have it frost free,” says Brook, ” if you get a premature frost, like say minus 5, you will prematurely dry down your crop, but you will also lock in things like green seed that will degrade the value of your crop.”

Brook, who works out of the Stettler office of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, tells Rural Roots Canada with this heat, if the crop can mature and dry down enough, there will be better quality wheat, oats, barley, and canola.

As for the yield on various crops, Brook is predicting a real mixed bag, noting a story from one producer south of Lethbridge who had nearly 70 bushels an acre for winter wheat, but another who pulled off only single digits in terms of bushels per acre on some spring canola.

For those who are heading out to swath a little earlier than normal, Brook has this tip.

“The right moisture content, whether it be a cereal, pulses or oilseeds, is 30% moisture is the magic number when you can indent the seed and it doesn’t spring back, ” according to Brook on when producers should start swathing.

While the hot, dry weather is being welcomed throughout harvest, Brook sure hopes there’s something coming in terms of moisture after the equipment is out of the field.

“We still need to get ready for next year’s crop,” Brook says, adding that the soil needs at least some moisture to even germinate.