Heat wave, lack of rain leads to continued deterioration: Alberta crop report

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Heat wave, lack of rain leads to continued deterioration: Alberta crop report
More than half of all pasture acres in Alberta are rated "poor" and it's expected to get worse, according to the province's crop report. As Morgan Black reports, farmers are at a loss with this year's yield – Aug 1, 2021

Alberta’s extreme heat combined with a lack of moisture has led to an intense deterioration of crops, according to a provincial forecast.

Read more: How will Canada prepare for more heat waves and other extreme weather events?

The latest crop report for the province cites only 20 per cent of crops with a “good” or “excellent” rating. Annual crop conditions have declined compared to the last biweekly report — representing a 17-point drop in the last two weeks. It’s more than 50 points below the five and 10-year average of 71 per cent.

More than half of all pasture acres are rated as “poor,” according to the report. Several municipalities including Sturgeon County, Lac Ste. Anne and St. Paul, have declared agricultural disasters.

“I can’t say I was surprised by the crop report,” Westlock farmer John Guelly said.

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“It’s too late for any moisture to benefit us now. The best thing is to shut off the taps, let us get this harvest done and forget about it. Move on to next year.”

Guelly farms canola, wheat and barley. In 2020, his plot was so wet he lost most of it.

“It seems to be a trend. We haven’t had great harvests for about six years in a row in our area,” he said.

The farmer said bad yields create a trickle-down effect for the entire province.

“I think people will be selling cattle because they don’t have the feed or can’t afford it. It impacts smaller communities that depend on agriculture. The small businesses community will be hit,” he said.

“Every year there are crop issues, it’s going to add to the price of products in the city.”

Read more: Severe drought in Alberta brings on early harvest

Kevin Serfas watched his crops in southern Alberta rise with promise — and then become nearly petrified from the extreme heat.

Kevin Serfas in front of his crops in Turin, Alta. Courtesy: Kevin Serfas

“Those canola fields, they are just dead, hard plants,” he said. “To see it like this is very disheartening.”

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Serfas, chair of Alberta Canola, said there have been farmers who have come away with no yield at all.

“There are farmers combining with two machines all day and not even filling a truck. It’s tough,” he said.

“We still have to go out and finish our job but we know it’s a thankless position we are in for the next six weeks. We are just cleaning up a mess, is what we’re doing.”

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

Premier Jason Kenney tweeted that he was in southern Alberta on Saturday, meeting with farmers and ranchers.

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“[Alberta Canola] has had conversations with the province and they are fully aware of what’s going on,” Serfas said. “I think there’s work to do in regards to how we’re going to support farmers in Alberta.”

Serfas said provincial programs are geared more toward cattle farmers who may have a lack of feed.

“We are trying to find ways to make that program work for broadacre farmers,” he explained.

“I would expect in the next 10 days to two weeks there will be some tougher questions being asked. Hopefully, we can get clearer answers about how we can best be supported.”

According to the crop report, the central region, which includes Rimbey, Airdrie, Coronation and Oyen, experienced the most “significant reduction.”

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