Heavy rains make for lush, late crop


Farms lag behind across region

Sturgeon County’s crops may be a little late, but they’re shaping up to be pretty lush due to all this rain, say area farmers.

Alberta Agriculture’s St. Albert research station recorded about 49mm of rain between July 18 (the date of the most recent provincial crop update) and July 24. That is about three times what it usually would get during that week. It came courtesy of a raft of furious thunderstorms.

The county has a very marbled appearance when it comes to the amount of rain we’ve been getting, said Ward Middleton, who farms organic grain near Morinville. His farm was in good condition at the start of this year, but many others had a late start, as they had sopped soils and leftover crops to clear. So far, though, it’s shaping up to be an average year for rain in this region.

Alberta Agriculture data supports Middleton, with the latest report from agro-meteorological applications manager Ralph Wright suggesting the county was actually slightly below average when it came to wetness in the last 30 days.

Last week’s rain came just in time for Jeff Nonay’s dairy farm near Legal, as his 2,500 acres were starting to dry out due to the heat. The cool weather has helped his canola, while his potatoes and corn have lapped up the water.

“The crop still has all the potential to make our yield targets.”

Slow but good growing

Edmonton-area crops are lagging behind when it comes to development, suggests the July 18 Alberta Crop Report. Just 58 per cent of crops in this region were reported as being in good to excellent condition, compared to 95 per cent last year and 73 per cent on average.

That’s due to last year’s wet fall and this year’s late start, said Harry Brook, an Alberta Agriculture crop specialist based out of Stettler. Westlock County, Camrose and other communities in this region all reported high amounts of leftover crop from last year at the start of this season.

Southern Alberta is almost the complete opposite, as it was “drier than a popcorn fart” there, Brook said. Just 45 per cent of the south’s crops were in decent condition as of July 18, compared to about 70 per cent on average.

While these have been great times for grain farmers, whose crops are now extremely lush, Middleton said it’s been a rough season for hay growers, as it’s been too wet for their grass to dry.

While he hadn’t had any trouble with it personally, Nonay said the high winds and hail that have accompanied this region’s rains have smashed some fields flat.

“I think we all want to stay away from that big white combine that rolls by every once in awhile,” he said of hailstorms.

Edmonton-area farmers will want a warm, dry August to finish their crop and avoid the late start to harvesting they had last year, Brook said.

It’s a bit early to tell how this year’s crop will turn out, but Middleton was predicting an average turnout barring storm damage, and Nonay had some pretty big tubers on his potato plants.

“If we get average weather, this is going to end up pretty good,” Nonay said.

Alberta Agriculture’s next crop report is set to come out Friday.


About Author

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.