Hit the hardest, Alberta harvest finally wraps up
Since mid-October, warmer-than-average temperatures have allowed producers across Alberta to make significant harvest progress, according to the province’s latest crop report.
By Stephanie Gordon
As of Oct. 30, nearly 95 per cent of crops are now in the bin, up 17 per cent from a week ago, with another three per cent of crops in the swath and only two per cent still standing.
Out of the Prairies provinces, Alberta’s harvest has been stalled the most, with only 40 per cent of crops harvested in early October. Manitoba and Saskatchewan saw double the progress, with 80 per cent and 78 per cent of overall crops harvested around the same time in early October.
In recent years, harvest progress was wrapped up by this time of the year, with the exception of 2016 when it was delayed. Compared to 2016, harvest is currently ahead for all regions, with the exception of the Southern Region, where it is almost on par. On Nov. 8, 2016, only 81 per cent of Alberta’s crops had been harvested. Compared to the present day where about 96 per cent of the crops in the Southern, Central and North East Regions, 94 per cent in the Peace and 87 per cent in the North West Region have been harvested.
The 2016 growing season was an outlier in the province’s history when a large storm system in late August brought well over 100mm of rain to western areas of the province. Much like 2018, the wet cooler weather persisted until October and resulted in excessive soil moisture and poor harvest conditions. Unlike 2016, most producers across the province have managed to avoid leaving crop in the field until the spring.
In the short term, crop quality and yields are below average. The short term provincial dryland yield index is estimated at 95.8 per cent (four per cent below the 5-year average), while the long term index is estimated at 101.7 per cent (two per cent above the 10-year average). Regionally, compared to their five-year averages, yields for the Peace Region are above their averages (by 21 per cent), while for the North East and North West Regions these are on par. For the Southern and Central Regions, yields are below average by 26 per cent and three per cent, respectively.
Since the end of August, crop quality has deteriorated due to wet conditions. Provincially, crop quality for all crops are below their five-year averages, with the exception of malt barley and the top two grades of durum wheat and dry peas, which are above average.
About 66 per cent of hard red spring wheat has graded in the top two grades, with 18 per cent graded as feed quality. About 44 per cent of oats has graded number 2 or better. Nearly 23 per cent of barley is eligible for malt and 60 per cent is graded as number 1. Almost 68 per cent of harvested canola is graded as number 1, with 17 per cent graded as number 2. About 81 per cent of durum wheat and 83 per cent of dry peas are graded in the top two grades.
The cool wet weather has helped soil moisture conditions, and soil moisture reserves are currently close to normal. However, in some parts of the Southern and Peace Regions, there are still pockets where moisture reserves are relatively poor.
It has not been an easy harvest for Alberta. Prior to the welcomed change in weather the province alerted the government to $3 billion in unharvested crops and Farm Credit Credit rolled out extra supports for Prairie customers impacted by the wet weather. Producers in areas still coming back from a harsh 2016 season, where crop stayed under snow and delayed spring planting in 2017, felt the pinch in this year’s harvest season more than most.
Producers in Alberta have also faced increased expenses. The cost for this year’s growing season is more than an average growing season. Producers have had to purchase propane for grain dryers, enlist the help of extra labour, and rent additional equipment to harvest within a shorter window. In addition to increasing costs, there have been concerns about the quality of the crop coming off the fields battered by the weather. Lower quality crop that can only be sold as feed, or lower graded canola as a result of green seed, will decrease the overall payout a producer expects for their crop.
As harvest wraps up and producers look ahead to fall preparations, there are resources available to farmers to help manage the added stress at Domore.ag, and the Alberta Health Services Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.