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Edmonton-area farmers unable to harvest crops due to heavy rainfall, unlikely to get second cut

WATCH ABOVE: The Edmonton area has seen lots of rain this summer, and now we are getting a better idea of what that means for crops. Julia Wong explains.

The near-daily rain that’s fallen in central Alberta this summer is having a detrimental effect on crops, and some farmers might not be able to get a second round of hay from their fields because of it.

According to the Alberta crop report, which looks at conditions as of July 30, only 55 per cent of crops are in good to excellent condition in northwest Alberta — a region that encompasses Edmonton, Leduc, Drayton Valley, Barrhead and Athabasca.

That number is 11 per cent behind the five-year average for the region, and pales in comparison to the 68 per cent of crops across Alberta that are currently in good to excellent condition.

READ MORE: Hay yields below normal in Saskatchewan, shortages expected in some areas

“Hay operations have been extremely difficult in the [the Edmonton area] and the chance of a second cut is greatly diminished due to the late first cut,” reads the latest crop report released Friday.

“Producers are hoping for a break in the weather to allow for drying as these wet field conditions are preventing hay harvest and crop development.”

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Hobby farmer Don Kurach in his field near Stony Plain, Alta. west of Edmonton on Friday, August 2, 2019.
Hobby farmer Don Kurach in his field near Stony Plain, Alta. west of Edmonton on Friday, August 2, 2019. Global News

Don Kurach, a retired hobby farmer west of Edmonton in Parkland County, has seen the impacts of the rainfall first-hand.

READ MORE: Crops advance with recent moisture, but damaged by coinciding storms

“In the whole month of July, there hasn’t been – outside of Stony Plain – there hasn’t been two days where there hasn’t been some rain,” he said while standing in his hay crop intended to feed cows and horses.

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Kurach said the crop has been ready to cut for a month, as it matured at the end of June and into the beginning of July, and is now losing nutritional value. But the weather has made it impossible to harvest.

“In order to get your crop off, you basically have to cut it and let it dry. It takes about three days to dry and then you can bale it.

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“With the amount of moisture in the ground this year, it’s going to be very difficult to get this off.”

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According to the crop report, only 15 per cent of first cut hay in the region had been reported complete as of the end of July, with estimated yields of 1.6 ton per acre and quality rated as 34 per cent poor, 56 per cent fair, and only 10 per cent good and excellent.

That means in the Edmonton region, 85 per cent of hay that would normally be harvested by this time of year is still in the field.

A hay field west of Edmonton near Stony Plain on Friday, August 2, 2019.
A hay field west of Edmonton near Stony Plain on Friday, August 2, 2019. Global News

READ MORE: Edmonton and surrounding areas hammered by hail Friday night

Kurach said he keeps an eye on the weather, checking twice a day, to see when there will be some respite from the rain.

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“Hopefully we can get a stretch of five days, [that] would be perfect. Otherwise, if you cut it, bale it wet, then the hay will spoil,” he said.

Kurach said he can’t remember a summer that has been this rainy and adds he does not anticipate getting a second harvest of hay.

“After you cut and bale it…it’s about 45 days where you can re-cut it again. Right now, that would take us into the middle of September and that’s too late.

“It’s too late to get two crops off, for sure, this year,” he said.

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The crop report states the south region is experiencing 51 per cent of crops in good to excellent condition, the Peace region 66 per cent, the central region 79 per cent and northeast 85 per cent.

WATCH BELOW: For Alberta farmers, this growing season has been a tale of two extremes – from too much rainfall to a continuing drought – and it’s impacting crop development. Tom Vernon filed this report on July 19, 2019.

Alberta growing season: drought then too much rain
Alberta growing season: drought then too much rain