Heat Wave Concerns Farmers

As summer vacation seasons kicks in, an Alberta heat wave might be welcomed by many heading for the beach or lake, but it’s a bit of a concern for producers.

Environment Canada has issued a heat warning for mostly rural areas of east central and southeast Alberta.

Temperatures are expected to top 29 C to 32 C for daytime highs for longer than a week, an unusually long duration for such a heat wave.

The forecast for the Medicine Hat and Lethbridge areas is calling for temperatures even hotter, in the mid to high 30’s.

That is a concern for farmers, especially at this time of the year, according to Harry Brook, Crop Specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

“Even if there is moisture in the ground when you get up to 30 degrees, there’s no way your plant can keep up with the water demand to keep it cool,” said Brook.

He also says it is an inopportune time right now with canola bolting and wheat and barley heading out.

“If you get really intense heat, you can get what is called flower blasting, you will basically have sterile blooms, the blooms will just fall off, they just can’t handle it and it can reduce yield.”

He says there isn’t anything you can do, adding it’s just part of being a farmer.

“Even if you are irrigating, when it gets to 31 C there’s no way you can irrigate enough to keep your whole field doing well.”

One positive helping crops deal with this heat wave is the good soil moisture levels left over from winter.

Brook says there isn’t a soil moisture problem at the moment, adding it’s hit and miss throughout the province thanks to scattered showers and thundershowers over the past month.

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But, if the heat wave lasts as long as Environment Canada is forecasting that could dry things up in a hurry.

Brook adds when it gets this hot the plant has to use a lot of the moisture just to keep cool, that is moisture that maybe should be going into the plant, but is basically air conditioning for the plant.

The Alberta Agriculture crop specialist sums it up with something most farmers already know.

“We are not going to really find out what the effect is of these hot weather conditions until we get to harvest.”

“That’s always where the rubber hits the road,” says Brook.