‘Dry and Fried’ Crops Across Province Fade in Heat
After a heat dome torched most of western Canada, the majority of crops in Alberta are not in good shape, according to a recent crop report.
The extreme heat has broken provincial records on the Prairies and farmers and growers must pick up the pieces after what started as a bumper crop year.
Paul McLauchlin, president of rural municipalities in Alberta, said he expects agricultural emergencies to be declared in the coming weeks across the province due to the heat damage.
In southern Alberta, growers went weeks without rain and suffered high temperatures scorching the land.
“You’re going to have these huge crop losses,” McLauchlin said.
“It’s drought and heat.”
According to the Alberta Crop Report, only 18.1 percent of all crops in the province’s Peace region are in good or excellent condition, followed by 26.9 percent in the Northwest, 33.4 percent in the south and 34.6 percent in the northeast. The central region is doing the best with 59.4% of all crops in good to excellent conditions.
These figures are in stark contrast to typical conditions in the province, with the 10-year average harvest in good or excellent condition standing at 73.4 percent.
“Year-to-year precipitation deficits now exceed a 50-year minimum in some areas,” the report said.
Pasture growth is also dismal, with 34.6 percent of the province’s pastures in poor condition, compared to the 10-year average of just 12.4 percent being in poor condition.
Only 0.5 percent of all pasture in the province is in excellent condition, with the Northwest and Peace region lowering the average, both pointing to zero percent, which is compared to the 10-year average of 19 percent in excellent condition. state.
Ward Toma, general manager of the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, said it was hot and dry at the wrong time for producers.
“We haven’t seen such high temperatures for a long time,” Toma said.
In 2002, the industry had another difficult, cold and dry year resulting in low yields.
But this year, temperatures have broken records and reached nearly 40 ° C across the province, causing canola to dry out and fry.
“Everything was damaged by it. Normally we have our hottest days of the year the first two weeks of July, just when the canola is blooming and that always has an impact a bit if it goes over 30 degrees, ”Toma said.
Toma said this year’s stress is adding to the stress of the pandemic and worries about the mental health of producers.
“It just adds to the stress because there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. You watch your crop burn, ”Toma said.
This year was expected to produce a very good harvest and at the start of the year things were going well for the growers.
“And then it got fried and it’s really tough mentally,” said Toma, who represents the province’s 13,000 canola growers.
“It’s a difficult thing to deal with from a mental health perspective,” Toma said, adding that he encouraged farmers to reach out and get help if they needed it.
In July, the province announced aid was on its way for farmers facing low crop yields due to the drought.
Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews, who is also a rancher, said the province is facing a drought that is affecting crops across the province.
“We are seeing a very significant drought, certainly in key parts of the province, and more of the province than we normally would,” said Toews.
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen released a statement Thursday assuring producers in the province that they understand the severity of the “prolonged period of extremely dry weather.”
Dreeshen said the province is doing everything to make sure producers get the support they need.
Crop assessors have been ordered to start work immediately to give farmers some certainty when making insurance claims.
“(This is) so that any value from crop residues can be recovered, whether it’s grazing or feeding livestock, and that assessment needs to be done in a timely manner,” Toews said.
The province is working with the federal government on the details of the AgriRecivery program, which is a cost-sharing program that provides emergency assistance in the event of crop loss by mother nature. The federal government pays 60 percent of the cost while the provinces pay the remainder.