Southern Alberta crops in dire need of rain

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The seed is in the ground, and now farmers wait to see how their yield will turn out. Quinn Campbell talked to one southern Alberta farmer who said his crops are in dire need of rain – Jun 21, 2019

In mid-June, the southern Alberta sky has looked promising for rain and forecasts tend to agree but one local farmer said he isn’t holding his breath.

John McKee farms south of Lethbridge and hopes for the showers that have been forecast as his thirsty crops are in dire need of a drink.

“This is into the third year of less than adequate moisture for this area,” McKee said.

READ MORE: Peter Watts: Is it time to expand Alberta’s agriculture irrigation system?

Precipitation maps show how much rain the prairies have gotten this year. Unfortunately, it looks similar to last year’s conditions, which ended in a drought.

“Emotionally, it’s hard to stay on an even keel when you’ve done everything you can do — [with] the equipment and technology we have, we are able to do that, we are in a position to do things 100 per cent — and then the rain doesn’t come into the third.
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“I don’t know quite where to turn.”

McKee said in his area, precipitation has been below average as have daily temperatures. Although the cooler weather may have helped with evaporation, McKee said the small amount of surface moisture during seeding, that helped create germination, has now gone, leaving his plants dry.

 “They’ve used up the moisture that has been available to them and there is no reserve. About as high is the crop is above ground, that’s how far underground the roots have gone.”

With the lack of moisture becoming more and more apparent in his crops, McKee is nervous for what this summer has in store, but said a downpour could still turn things around.

“These fields look green but in a week they won’t look green. We are to that point where a reasonable yield is not going to be achievable,” said McKee.

“Then, a rain a week or 10 days from now, the crop is going to be stunted and damaged. “

READ MORE: Southern Alberta researcher explores new method of irrigation

And as long as the forecast continues to show hopes of precipitation, McKee said he is going to try look on the bright side.

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“When things look bleak, that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how they are going to turn out,” McKee said.

“The cure is a good general rain — one, two, three inches would solve all the problems we are having right now.”

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