Yields seen disappointing as Alta. harvest continues

Harvest activities in Alberta have been moving forward at a quick pace, but yields to date have been disappointing, according to a provincial crop specialist.

The harvest of barley in Alberta was said to be roughly 70 per cent done, pulses 80-90 per cent complete, wheat about 10 per cent finished and canola in the 10-40 per cent range.

"The harvest of the crops was the furthest along in the southern regions of the province," said Harry Brook, a crop specialist with the province’s Ag-Info Centre in Stettler.

Some regions of the Peace River district of northern Alberta also had harvest operations complete, but that was more of a factor of drought impacted production.

Yields in southern locations were about average, but in central and northern regions the results have been disappointing, he said.

"There had been early ideas that yield losses would be in the five to 50 per cent range in those areas," Brook said. "However, the yield loss has been more in the 30-plus per cent area."

One of the concerns among farmers has been the light test weights of barley, he said. Light test weights were expected to result in a greater percentage of the crop in Alberta grading as feed.

The aster yellow disease has also plagued numerous crops in the province, he said. Aster yellows can be identified by stunted growth and malformed flowers and pods. Infected plants typically do not produce seed.

Bertha armyworm infestations have also been evident in select areas of the province, and in some cases, canola fields have been devastated as a result, he said.

While a few farmers in select areas of Alberta were said to be still working on their first cut of hay, most had finished their second cut and were still hoping for a third cut. "There is not going to be a shortage of hay in the province this year," Brook said.

Pasture land for livestock has also been good, he said.

Soil moisture levels in the province range from fair to good to dry in some regions.

"Once the harvest in the province is complete, a good soaking rain would be appropriate to help replenish the depleted soil moisture reserves ahead of winter freeze up," Brook said.

Brook also felt that winter wheat area in Alberta will be up this season, as long as the farmers continue to get crops off in a timely fashion and if weather permits.

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

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