Farmers say this week’s moisture is helpful, but concerns remain

“Although it is very useful, we are still very worried about what the future holds,” says one farmer.

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Soil moisture is now above normal in many southern Alberta fields following rain earlier this week, according to the province’s latest moisture situation update.

The large storm brought a significant amount of rain to the eastern half of Alberta, ranging from more than 100 millimeters in the southeastern part of the province, between 30 and 70 millimeters in parts of central Alberta, and between 20 and 40 millimeters in the region. northeast, he said. Wednesday’s report.

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Farmers were eager to plant more before rain fell across the province this week, with warmer temperatures to follow, according to the Agriculture Financial Services Corp.’s first weekly crop report of the season, released Friday afternoon. .

In southern Alberta, 40 per cent of all crops have been planted so far this year, seven per cent more than the five-year average.

“We’re cautiously optimistic, I would say, at this point,” AFSC’s Jesse Cole said of this year’s crops. “We had a pretty good rain. This isn’t going to hurt at all. This is excellent.”

Since southern Alberta starts the year with fairly dry soil, surface soil moisture readings have increased quite a bit, he said.

“We’re not as bad as we were last year at the same time,” Cole said.

Alison Davie, who farms south of Taber, said the 100 millimeters the farm received this week of rain was welcome, especially for the hay and winter seed crops of winter wheat and autumn rye, which were drying out.” quite”.

“While it is very helpful, we are still very concerned about what the future holds,” said Davie, southern area director for Potato Growers of Alberta.

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Moisture is needed throughout the growing season, but this week’s rain at least relieves pressure on the start of the farm’s hay harvest, he said.

humidity update May 8, 2024
This map, included in the May 8 moisture situation update, shows precipitation over the past six days in southern Alberta. Alberta Government

Reduced irrigation allocation means tough decisions for farmers

Davie and her husband’s North Paddock Farms receive irrigation water through the St. Mary’s River Irrigation District, which has set this year’s initial allocation to irrigators at 50 centimeters of water per hectare. That amount, nearly half of the initial 2023 allocation, has meant the farm has had to make decisions about which crops to water.

“I knew that was going to hurt our hay crops a lot, and then our winter crops, we just wouldn’t irrigate; we’d have to move some of that water to some of our higher-value crops,” Davie said.

That water allocation will have a huge economic impact on her and her husband’s farm, she added.

“We have to focus on the crops that, at the end of the day, pay the bills,” Davie said.

High-value crops make up just over half of the farm’s 1,000 hectares, with potatoes found in a quarter of the farm’s fields.

“If we have another hot and dry season like last year, it will be very, very difficult not only for potatoes but for all crops.”

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Another southern Alberta farmer said the area around his family farm west of Vulcan is a “surprising” shape for humidity. Gary Flitton of Twin Valley Farms said the farm received about 51 millimeters of rain earlier this week and also had some “pretty good” snowfalls.

“Our humidity situation here is the best it’s been in years this spring,” he said. “We are sowing moisture in all fields. It is wonderful.”

Twin Valley Farms is about three-quarters done with planting, with a variety of cereals, legumes and oilseeds sown into the ground.

“We need a good crop because prices are down to about two-thirds of what they were before,” Flitton said.

About 20 percent of the farm’s land is irrigated and the nearby Twin Valley Reservoir was at 82 percent capacity as of Thursday.

“Our reservoir is looking really good right now,” he said.

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