Moisture is good, but too much of it isn’t. Some pretty nice-looking hay crops were being baled last week in fields along Hwy. 44 in the M.D. of Lesser Slave River. Other crops in certain areas are looking healthy as well, but the fly in the ointment, as it were, is water lying around in low areas has hurt crop growth, not to mention the ability to get it off.
“The hay looks great,” acknowledges M.D. Ag Fieldman Dawnia McCann. “I know they’re having a tough time out there getting (it) off.”
The last thing farmers need in 2017 is a repeat of 2016’s disastrously wet harvest season. McCann says there are 4,500 (insured) acres of land unseeded in the M.D. this year, due to inability to harvest what’s still lying in the fields. Whether that stuff gets written off or not is up to the insurer. She expects it’s getting to that point. Provincially, the unseeded acreage (insured, again) is around 600,000 acres. A normal year would be a small fraction of that, she says.
Other than that, “crops are looking pretty good in the areas where they were seeded on time and they’re not drowned out,” she says, adding that she expects about average yields in those areas.
In other M.D. ag news, “people have been doing their control work,” on weeds, McCann says. Surveys for a couple of the common crop pests are coming up this fall – for club root of canola and fusarium graminearum (a head blight on wheat and barley). Meanwhile, grasshoppers have been surprisingly numerous for a wet year – at least in some areas. Survey information on them goes to the provincial government. McCann says the province compiles all the information and produces a forecast map, which farmers can use to plan accordingly.
Coming up this fall on the Ag Service Board agenda is a workshop on solar power applications for farms, on Sept. 21 in Flatbush. McCann says provincial incentives for installing solar technology are more attractive than they used to be; the technology keeps getting better and cheaper as well. Water systems, for example, can be run quite efficiently and cheaply on solar power and are also recommended as a way of keeping cows and creeks apart.
“People are definitely interested,” McCann says. “As the technology gets simpler and cheaper, the return on investment is better.”
Last year’s crop lying in a field in the M.D., with cattails and ducks.
Photo courtesy Dawnia McCann