Severe drought in Alberta brings on early harvest

Click to play video: 'Severe drought in Alberta brings on early harvest' Severe drought in Alberta brings on early harvest
WATCH ABOVE: The devastating drought continues to hit Alberta farmers hard and the hot, dry weather has sped up harvest across the Prairies. As Quinn Campbell reports, dryland farmers are seeing significant yield loss, some even abandoning their crops – Jul 29, 2021

Combines are firing up across the Prairies as abnormally hot weather and little moisture is causing crops to mature more quickly than normal.

“I would say we are a couple weeks earlier than normal,” said Greg Stamp with Stamp Seeds located at Enchant, Alta.

“We have had some early years for peas and things like that, but this is the earliest we have harvested rye in the past.”

Stamp started harvesting fall rye crop earlier this week and its yield is less than it should be, a trend among crops across the Prairies.

“If you look at a field like this, a fall crop like winter wheat or rye, it’s got something there, but yields are not going to be anywhere close to average,” he said.

Read more: Federal agriculture minister announces help for farmers, ranchers suffering from drought

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Alberta wheat and barley agronomy research extension specialist Jeremy Boychyn said crop quality is down across most of the province.

“We are seeing not the entire head of those cereal crops being filled, or almost completely blank heads that are being aborted by that plant,” he said.

Boychyn added that this is one of the worst years he has seen.

“In terms of lack of moisture across the entire province, it’s more than I have seen since working in Alberta,” he said.

“There are still areas getting some some rain but the areas that haven’t been getting the rain, it’s a larger proportion of the province than normal.”

Unfortunately for some farmers, crops are so stunted that taking them off the field isn’t a viable option. It’s a far cry from some of the record-breaking crops farmers saw last year.

Read more: Southern Alberta crops decimated by heat: ‘There’s virtually nothing there’

“We could be 20 per cent of last year’s crop, but maybe 30 per cent of average on some of the early crops to some crops not even getting harvested,” Stamp said. “There are some fields that may not see a combine just because some crops didn’t produce a pod, or there is just no head that actually filled out with seeds in them.”

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Stamp said as harvest gets underway and farmers start to assess their crop quality, he is already thinking about next year’s seed supply.

Read more: Southern Alberta farmers battle surge in grasshoppers: ‘They’ve been really bad’

This year’s harvest could have implications come next seeding season if there is a shortage of seed due to drought.

“When you look across the board, there is a lot of areas where people are either taking what they would have farm-saved for seed and using that for green feed, or there is just not much there at all in some regions,” Stamp said.

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