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    Categories: Agriculture

Harvest almost back on track

County farmers say they have just about caught up to where they should be with their harvest now that Mother Nature has decided to play nice.

Sturgeon County combines started to roll last week to bring in this year’s crops, pretty much right on schedule.

Many farmers have been playing catch-up since the spring where late snows and leftover crops from Fall 2016 pushed back the start of planting several weeks.

The most recent provincial crop report suggests that about 0.7 per cent of crops in the North West region (which includes Edmonton) had been collected as of Aug. 29, or a bit less than the 3.8 per cent typically done by this time of year, said Alberta Agriculture crop specialist Mark Cutts.

“The south is way ahead of average,” he noted, with extremely warm and dry weather allowing farmers there to collect about 52 per cent of their crops – more than twice the amount they’d typically have in the bin at this time of year.

Jeff Nonay of Lakeside Dairy near Legal said he’d pretty much brought in all his peas as of the Labour Day weekend and was now swathing the barley on his 2,500 acre farm.

“The peas are rolling in above expectations,” he said, at about 70 bushels per acre, and the barley was also looking fairly healthy. He was a bit concerned dry dirt could make it tough to dig up his potatoes when he starts on them in two weeks, but those tubers were otherwise looking exceptional in size and quality.

“Everything’s coming together.”

Sturgeon Valley Fertilizer’s André Montpetit said he’d collected about a third of his crop as of this week, but noted that he was an odd case as he does mostly peas and barley. While some farmers had started swathing their canola, most wheat still needed a bit more time before it could be harvested. Still, he expected that just about everyone would be in the fields in earnest by Sept. 15.

“We’ve certainly had better weather than we had last year,” he said, where continual rains pushed back the end of harvest until last spring.

“We’ve gained a lot of time, definitely.”

Dry conditions have made for poor pastures throughout Alberta, with about two-thirds of the pasture in the south listed as being in poor condition, Cutts said. The Edmonton region had fared better, with over half of its pastures ranked as good or excellent.

Montpetit and Nonay predicted an average crop year for most county farmers, with Montpetit adding that he’d seen a fair amount of flattened/lodged grain crops due to heavy rains.

Statistics Canada’s most recent principal field crops report forecast a 9.1 per cent drop in wheat production and a 1.6 per cent drop in canola in Alberta this year due to lower yields.

Nonay said most farmers will be living in their farm equipment this month as they’re out combining and swathing whenever the skies aren’t raining, often for 15 hours a day, seven days a week.

“It would be nice to see the bulk of the harvest happen in September this year.”

Cutts asked drivers to be wary of farm equipment moving on the roads at this time of year and asked them to be patient and careful when passing.

Environment Canada has forecast warm, sunny conditions for the rest of this week.

Kevin Ma: Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.