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Summer heat sparks early harvest season

It's harvest time already? Yes! A hot start due to the summer heat.
BOOST YIELDS – A researcher says that barley yields can be significantly increased by applying extra nitrogen.
Sturgeon County’s barley crop is ready to harvest due to a hot summer.

Sturgeon County farmers have launched out of the starting block early for this year’s harvest thanks in most part to our scorching summer.

Combine harvesters are starting to roll in Sturgeon this week as the 2018 harvest commences.

Most farmers have just started on their peas and barley as of last weekend, and won’t touch their canola and wheat for at least a few weeks, said André Montpetit of Sturgeon Valley Fertilizer. Pretty much everything should be ready for collection by the start of September.

“If you see a plume of dust out in the middle of a field, you know a combine is probably working.”

Alberta is about five per cent through the 2018 harvest as of this week, with most of the harvesting happening in the south, said Alberta Agriculture crop market analyst Neil Blue.

“It’s a little earlier than usual,” he said of the harvest, with this year’s hot, dry weather giving farmers about a week’s head start.

About 58 per cent of Sturgeon’s crops were rated as good or excellent as of Aug. 14, which was a bit less than the five-year average of 66 per cent, Alberta Agriculture reports.

Rains have been spotty in many areas, which may make harvesting a challenge due to uneven crop development, Blue said. Some farmers may have to wait for these late crops to catch up.

Hay and pasture may also be in short supply this winter, with some 41 per cent of the pastures in the Edmonton region in poor condition as of this month, the Aug. 14 crop report suggests.

While the situation is nowhere near as bad as 2002 (where a drought forced farmers to import bales from Ontario) some farmers were already baling oats and straw in order to have something to feed their animals this winter, Blue said.

Sturgeon County had a late start to seeding this year because the snow stuck around until late April, said Alberta Agriculture meteorologist Ralph Wright.

“May was unusually warm and unusually dry, which really helped speed things up for harvest,” he continued.

The county got about five centimetres of rain in early June, which was ideal for most developing plants, followed by 11 days of heat before several weeks of wetness, Wright said.

Blue noted that parts of Alberta were as cold as 1 C over the weekend – a reminder that a killing frost was possible even in August. Wright saw no sub-zero temperatures in his 10-day forecast for Sturgeon, but noted that this region has seen frosts as early as Aug. 22 before.

Expect to see a lot of heavy machinery on the road in the coming weeks as farmers work all hours to get their crops in before that first killing frost, Montpetit said. He urged drivers to “chillax” and stay safe around these large, slow-moving vehicles as they move between fields.

“We don’t want to see accidents.”

Check for the latest harvest updates.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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