High temperatures and low precipitation, compounded by drier than average surface soil moisture reserves, prompted several municipalities across the province to declare states of agricultural disaster over the summer this year.
Despite these challenges, producers in the South region, which includes Wheatland County, have managed to combine 99.6 per cent of major crops, while in the Central region, which includes both Kneehill and Starland County, major crops are about 93.3 per cent harvested according to the October 10 Alberta Crop Report.
“Producers have been concerned with the lack of precipitation from the start of the growing season with added high temperatures creating stress on a wide range of crops by inhibiting plant growth, and premature development impacting yields negatively,” shares Wheatland County Agriculture and Environment manager George Bloom.
He explains, as of the September 26 crop report, some producers still had “a small portion of canola crops” still out in the fields, which will require “a hard frost to harden off,” but otherwise most other crops have already been harvested.
While harvest is well ahead of the 10 year average, the surface soil moisture ratings for both the South and Central regions are somewhat concerning.
The South region is reporting 43.8 per cent poor surface soil moisture ratings, 47.4 per cent fair, and only 8.9 per cent good; the Central region is also reporting low, though marginally better surface soil moisture ratings, with 41.1 per cent poor ratings, 37.8 per cent fair, and 21.1 per cent good ratings.
Neither region, however, is reporting either excellent or excessive soil moisture ratings. In fact, across the province only the North East and North West regions are reporting any excessive soil moisture conditions at 0.5 per cent and 6.9 per cent respectively.
Although there are some concerns for the soil moisture levels in Wheatland County, Mr. Bloom notes these could increase to more favourable levels prior to spring 2024.
One thing he shares could be a concern are additional weed pressures “due to limited control in 2023.”
The Mail also reached out to Kneehill and Starland County for comment but had not heard back at press time.