Heat speeds up crops
But enough with the rain already, say farmers
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 25, 2012 06:00 am
Local farmers are both hot and cold about this month’s wild weather.
Sturgeon County farms have been baked and soaked in recent weeks by storms and sun.
Temperatures at Alberta Agriculture’s St. Albert Research Station (located near the University of Alberta’s Bocock research farm on Hwy. 2) have been up to six degrees above average for all but nine of the last 30 days, according to Alberta Agriculture AgroClimatic Information Service, with up to 80 millimetres of rain falling in a single day.
The heat has sent most crops into overdrive, according to Terry Bokenfohr, who farms between Morinville and St. Albert, with canola and wheat now well developed. But the rain hasn’t been great for his peas – there’s so much of it that it has started to pool and drown his plants. “We needed some rain, but it’s almost bordering on excessive now.”
Bokenfohr advised farmers to start praying for some sun, as these frequent storms bring with them the risk of crop-smashing hail. “We’re all keeping an eye on the sky right now.”
The good and the bad
Sturgeon County has been warm to very warm over the last 30 days, according to the province, with temperatures at one-in-three and one-in-25 year highs throughout.
That shouldn’t be a problem for most crops in the region so long as they have water, said provincial crop specialist Neil Whatley. Peas will be the first to show signs of heat stress if it shows up, he added, followed by canola.
The county is also sopping wet, according to the province, with most regions getting up to twice as much rain as usual. Soil moisture reserves were considered high to moderately high compared to average, with a small part of north-central Sturgeon being considered extremely high (a one in 25-to-50 year level).
Wayne Groot’s potatoes were doing great, said the county farmer, and could actually use a bit more water. “Right now we’re starting to irrigate again just to keep things wet,” he said. “With the warm weather, it doesn’t take long for the water to get used up.”
Potatoes prefer 20-to-25 C weather and about an inch of rain a week, said Groot, who is a director with the Potato Growers of Alberta – very close to what the county is getting now. “It’s kind of a perfect growing year with heat and moisture. Our crops have never looked better.”
Farmers did need the rain after getting roasted earlier this month, Bokenfohr said, but there’s been too much of it too fast in recent weeks. Hay farmers have been particularly hard hit, he added, as they need warm, dry, windy weather to preserve their crop. “They’re at a standstill.”
The constant moisture also makes plants vulnerable to fungal diseases such as late blight in potatoes and sclerotinia in canola, Groot and Bokenfohr noted. Blight can devastate a potato crop in days if left unchecked. Fungicides help, but the rain has already washed much of it off local crops.
Other than those issues, Groot and Bokenfohr said, farmers should look forward to an above average harvest this year and hope for a warm, dry August. If the weather holds, most crops should be ready for harvest by early September.
Visit www.agric.gov.ab.ca for the latest on farm weather conditions.