Alta. crops need precipitation soon: AARD

(Resource News International) — Grain, oilseeds, pasture and hay crops across much of Alberta are in serious need of moisture soon if there is any hope of these crops maturing ahead of an early frost, a provincial crop specialist warns.

“There are a few areas within the province that there has been enough rain and subsoil moisture to give the crops a good start,” Harry Brook, a crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s Ag-Info Centre at Stettler, said Thursday.

“However, there are also areas in which crops have been planted into dust and have been waiting for rain to germinate.”

There are also areas of the province in which the crop is just hanging on, with trace amounts of moisture being enough to sustain growth, Brook said. But those areas are in need of constant shower activity, he said, and if that moisture does not come, these crops would also take a quick downturn.

“It doesn’t matter the crop, whether it’s canola, peas, barley, everything is in need of a nice, long, soaking steady rain,” he said.

Canola crops were just beginning to emerge in some parts of Alberta, Brook said, noting that with the crop so far behind, there’s no way those fields would be ready to harvest before the first frost in the fall.

“Worse than 2002”

Lack of rain has hurt pastures to the point where producers are unloading cow/calf pairs at the local cattle auction marts, especially if their hay supply is also next to nothing, Brook said.

There is some first-cut haying going on in select regions of the province, he said, but in a lot of cases there just has been nothing to cut.

“This drought is worse that than the one experienced during 2002,” Brook said, in which the northern and central regions of the province suffered from drought while southern Alberta received the necessary moisture.

“This year no significant amounts of rain have hit the province.”

With the lack of moisture, grasshopper infestations have started to pop up in parts of Alberta, Brook said. “The grasshoppers are in fact competing for what little green space there is,” he said.

Frost that hit the province last week was said to have also caused some damage to many already weather-beaten fields. The extent of the damage or how widespread was unknown.

“We’ve had at least two frost warnings already this week, with temperatures moving to as low as 2°C on Monday,” Brook said.

“The advantage of having it cold is that it does slow the evaporation of moisture on the plants, but warmth, along with rain, is needed to make the crops grow,” he said.

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