Hot dry weather means an early harvest for many

“We’ve never swathed canola in July before, that’s a new one for us.”

Those are the words of Kevin Serfas, who farms in the Lethbridge area, on how early this year’s harvest has begun thanks to a summer of hot and dry weather.

The southern Alberta producer says as of early August they hadn’t had any rain at all since the tenth of June.

“The lack of rain is one thing, but the blistering heat has really done us in,” Serfas adds, “yields are not where we would like them to be.”

It’s not just the canola coming off super early for Serfas.

“We started barley July 23 which breaks our previous record start by one day,” says Serfas.

He believes the heat and dry weather has pushed harvest ahead by at least two weeks, but notes they get into the field a little earlier in the spring than most other producers.

Further north, John Kowalchuk who farms near Rumsey, northeast of Calgary, says the harvest has started early for them as well, with barley already coming off at a time when normally they would only be harvesting peas.

He adds they are doing quite well considering they have had about half as much rain as they would usually get.

“Last year we had 16 inches of total rain during the growing season, compared to 5 this year, on average we get about 11 inches,” says the owner of @KowalchukFarms.

The yield, especially for canola, remains a concern for Kowalchuk.

“It’s a little thin because it got hot during flowering and we didn’t get as strong a plant as what we normally get, so I would guess yields would be down for canola.”

But much like every harvest, it seems to be a mixed bag across Alberta and the prairies.

Kowalchuk says while the south is starting early, parts of central and northern Alberta are going to be late again because they were late getting into the field and then they have received more moisture which will slow them down even more.

It’s something Serfas has heard as well.

“There are pockets that have had ideal amounts of rain and sunshine combined, some areas were too wet to start, some areas would even trade the 40 days of no rain and heat we’ve had for all the rain they have been getting,” according to Serfas.

As for the early start, Kowalchuk remains optimistic after last year’s harvest that had many producers unable to finish because of wet weather.

“When you get a chance to take the crop off dry you just go, ” adds Kowalchuk, “We kind of got caught last year, so I’m trying to learn and get as much of as I can as quick as I can.”

For the latest crop report from Alberta Agriculture click here.