Alta. harvest work seen picking up steam

Favourable weather and the quick maturation of crops have producers in Alberta preparing harvest equipment, according to a provincial crop specialist.

"Swathing of some canola, wheat and barley crops is now underway in the province, while combining of lentils, peas and chickpeas was well underway and nearing completion in select areas," said Harry Brook, a crop specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development’s Ag-Info Centre in Stettler.

Most of the harvest progress to date has occurred in the southern regions of the province, but progress was also slowly getting underway in central and northeastern regions, he said.

He acknowledged it was too early to get a handle on yield potential and the quality of the early harvested crops.

The harvest of Alberta’s winter wheat crop, meanwhile, was nearing completion, with yields and quality coming in at average to slightly above average levels, Brook said.

Soil moisture conditions in the province were rated as good, but there were dry pockets located throughout Alberta, he said.

"There will be a few areas in which late-season drought will have impacted crops," he acknowledged.

Brook said there have been numerous reports of bertha armyworm infestations in Alberta canola fields.

"Some farmers have been actively spraying while others are still determining whether the cost of doing so will be worthwhile," Brook said.

Disease issues have also been reported in early harvested crops, with aster yellows one of the major concerns, Brook said.

Aster yellows can infect a wide variety of crops, including canola, alfalfa, flax, sunflower, caraway, coriander, carrot, pea, ornamental plants, weeds and, to a lesser extent, cereals.

Aster yellows is caused by a phytoplasma, a pathogenic microorganism that inhabits the phloem (nutrient-carrying vessels) of infected plants and is carried from plant to plant by sap-sucking leafhoppers. Not all leafhoppers are infected with the pathogen. Leafhopper feeding, in itself, is not considered an economic threat to crops.

Brook noted that with pea crops in the province being quickly harvested, the area seeded to winter wheat in the fall could increase.

— Dwayne Klassen writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.

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