Alta. growers catching up on seeding

Producers across Alberta are thoroughly taking advantage of warm, dry mid-May weather to catch up on seeding.

The first provincial crop report was issued May 6, and at that time, less than three per cent of the province had been seeded, with the southern region being the most advanced at nine per cent.

“As a general rule for the grains and oilseed sector, it’s not bad yet,” said Humphrey Banack, second vice-president of Wild Rose Agricultural Producers and a grain and oilseed farmer near Camrose. His operation got seeding underway only a few days late, and while it depends on whom he talks to, the warm weather has been helpful.

Lukas Matejovsky, a crop statistician with Alberta Agriculture, said the recent five-year average for the first week of May is 8.2 per cent of seeding completed. The earlier crop report said excessive moisture is a problem in a number of regions, especially the northeast, northwest and Peace regions.

Shawna Mathieson, executive director of the Alberta Oat Growers Commission, said there are some wet spots in the province where her producers indicated that if they got a couple more inches of rain, they might not manage to seed some acres.

“Right now, if the warm weather holds, we should be good. In some areas if they get very much rain there may be some acres that aren’t seeded but farmers are being pretty positive right now,” Mathieson said. In general, oat growers were about a week behind but the warm weather meant the ground was drying out quickly, she said.

Matt Sawyer, who farms northeast of Calgary and serves as chairman of the Alberta Barley Commission, said he’s seeding into moisture. The southern part of the province has made great progress, in the central area many were close to done and near Barrhead he’d heard from another director that they were just getting started with seeding.

“Everybody’s rolling as hard as they can,” Sawyer said. A lot of progress had been made since the first crop report was issued, he added.

Rick Istead, general manager of the Alberta Wheat Commission, agreed. “A lot has happened since that crop report,” he said, noting some of his board’s directors in the south are already done seeding their wheat. Other areas were catching up, though some just got started in mid-May.

While getting the crop in earlier is always better, no one is panicking yet, Istead said. “This recent stretch of warm weather, warm days, warm nights and lack of precipitation has allowed them… with the equipment we have today (to) seed a lot of ground in a fairly short time,” he said.

Earlier is always better for canola too, but it’s not late yet, said Ward Toma, general manager of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission. While the south is more advanced, central Alberta was underway and those in the north were just getting started in the middle of the month.

“If we are not seeding we are very, very close to seeding across the province now,” he said, adding those in the Peace region might run up against deadlines.

The May 6 crop report said some areas in that region still had several inches of snow on the ground but producers were hoping to get started within five to 15 days.

— Victoria Paterson reports for Alberta Farmer from Calgary.

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