Farmers’ harvests covered by blanket of snow

With only about 60 per cent of the crop in throughout central Alberta, the recent snow has left a lot of farmers unhappy.

With only about 60 per cent of the crop in throughout central Alberta, the recent snow has left a lot of farmers unhappy, especially given the stop-and-go conditions thrust upon them earlier in the harvest by Mother Nature.

Harry Brook, crop specialist at the Ag Info Centre in Stettler, said that the damp conditions have caused a variety of headaches for local farmers.

“It’s not great,” he said of the conditions. “Let’s just say, this is bringing nobody any smiles.”

Farmers now have limited options, with the best hope a few weeks of “Indian Summer” weather with warm temperatures and sunny skies to melt the snow and dry out the fields. If the crop can then be harvested, it will likely be damp, meaning farmers will need to dry it.

“They can use grain driers or they can dry through aeration, though with the cool temperatures and the humidity levels, there’s limited amounts aeration will do,” Brook said.

A damp crop brings its own problems, he noted. As the dampness spreads and crops begin to rot, the heat migrates through the harvest, attracting insects. And since buyers won’t buy grain with insects, farmers can end up with a lot of worthless crop.

Worst case scenario, Brook said, is that winter is here to stay and farmers will have to harvest in the spring.

“The crop will be worth next to nothing, but they have to clear the field for the next one,” he noted. “It’s like putting good money after bad.”

Harvest this year was plagued by damp weather and overnight rains, and while the wetness kept insect pests to a minimum, it put a dent in farmers’ ability to harvest the crop.

The well-saturated ground has also caused difficulty for farmers whose crops have lodged with strong winds and rains of August and September pushing crops over.

“It makes it harder to combine or thresh without ruining the crop,” Brook explained.

Despite the damp weather making it tougher on farmers who want to get a full day of combining or threshing under their hat, the cooler, damp weather is actually working in favour for the canola farmers.

“This is great weather for the proper curing of canola,” Brook noted. “Slower drying for canola is better than faster, which is what happens when it’s hot and dry.”

Brook said he expected farmers were out in force combining or swathing their crops due to the drier, pleasant weather late last week and over the weekend. But as any farmer who lived through the sudden windstorm about five years ago that devastated local crops knows, it’s far too early to count their crops.

“We say, ‘Never count the crop until it’s in the bin,'” Brook said, recalling the sudden, strong gusty wind coming from an unusual and unexpected southwest corner five years ago that halved the profits of many farmers.

“Being a farmer isn’t easy. You can do everything right and still get screwed by Mother Nature,” Brook concluded.