Alberta farmers worried as cold weather hurts harvests
Cold weather, frost and even snow have caused crop production in Alberta to drop by 23.4 per cent this year compared to 2017, according to the Alberta Crop Report.
This has farmers and ranchers across the province concerned for what their yield will be at the end of the season.
Larry Wooliams farms 9,000 acres near Airdrie and said this season has taken its toll.
“It’s hard because you put your heart and soul into this and you’re also losing dollar value,” he said.
Barley is one of his crops. The latest stretch of cold weather has increased moisture content and brought harvesting to a halt.
If Wooliams’ barley stays in the ground too long, it will start to sprout, causing the crop quality to drop.
Barley harvested at the peak time can sell for higher prices since it’s used in one of Alberta’s top products: craft beer. But when the quality dips, Wooliams said he’s forced to sell the valuable beer malt as livestock feed, which impacts his bottom line.
“I’m concerned right now with the moisture that we’re having and all the fog that we’ve been having,” said Wooliams. “You know my quality is going down as the crop is still in the field.”
Agriculture experts say cold, wet weather has all but halted harvest progress across the province, especially in northern Alberta.
A report from the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation showed just how much harvest production has dropped.
As of Sept. 18, 31.3 per cent of spring wheat crops have made it to the bin. The five-year average is 55.9 per cent.
Only 39.7 per cent of barley has been harvested. The average of the last five years 53.5 per cent.
The five-year average for Alberta canola crops is 39.2 per cent, nearly triple what has been harvested so far this year: 13.6 per cent.
Wooliams said harvest is touch and go even in the best seasons, but with an early cold snap paired with heat waves in August, the next few weeks will be vital. His crew of a dozen employees will remain on standby, ready to jump into action as soon as the weather breaks.
“Everybody shows up at seven [in the morning] and you could be shutting down at two in the morning,” said Wooliams. “It’s hard to say, depends on what the weather does, but when we go, we try to go hard.”
WATCH: Cold, wet weather has all but halted harvest progress across the province, especially in northern Alberta. Kendra Slugoski explains.
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